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Virus Discovery in Desert Tortoise Fecal Samples: Novel Circular Single-Stranded DNA Viruses


Joseph P Orton, Matheo Morales, Rafaela S. Fontenele, Kara Schmidlin, Simona Kraberger, Daniel J. Leavitt, Timothy H. Webster, Melissa A. Wilson, Kenro Kusumi, Greer A. Dolby, and Arvind Varsani


The Sonoran Desert tortoise Gopherus morafkai is adapted to the desert, and plays an important ecological role in this environment. There is limited information on the viral diversity associated with tortoises (family Testudinidae), and to date no DNA virus has been identified associated with these animals. This study aimed to assess the diversity of DNA viruses associated with the Sonoran Desert tortoise by sampling their fecal matter. A viral metagenomics approach was used to identify the DNA viruses in fecal samples from wild Sonoran Desert tortoises in Arizona, USA. In total, 156 novel single-stranded DNA viruses were identified from 40 fecal samples. Those belonged to two known viral families, the Genomoviridae (n = 27) and Microviridae (n = 119). In addition, 10 genomes were recovered that belong to the unclassified group of circular-replication associated protein encoding single-stranded (CRESS) DNA virus and five circular molecules encoding viral-like proteins.

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Last Updated: 3/24/21