The Australian bushfire disaster that has killed more than 10,000 people is thought to have been caused by the global spread of an infectious virus that had previously existed only in the Americas, according to a new study.
“The emergence of this new viral infection in Australia appears to be one of the most significant evolutionary changes in Australian history,” said lead author Dr Tim McNeil, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Queensland.
“It has implications for human history, which is a big evolutionary story.”
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
“We believe that this was the main reason that the bushfires began,” Dr McNeil told the ABC.
“If you have a virus that has been present in one place and then suddenly gets into a new place, you can change the genetic material and you can cause changes in behaviour.”
A virus called Aedes aegypti has been known to infect humans since the mid-1800s.
It is an obligate interferon-dependent virus, meaning that it cannot survive on its own.
In this example, the virus infects the immune system, causing the immune cells to attack the host.
This attack is the “primary” form of infection that causes disease.
The researchers used a virus model to show how a virus can spread.
The model showed that when the infection spreads in a population, it causes a range of behavioural changes in the individuals.
For example, they showed that individuals who were infected were more likely to have more aggressive behaviours, such as more aggressive social interactions, and they were less likely to cooperate.
This behaviour is known as altruism.
The new study suggests that when a new infection is introduced into a population it can cause some behavioural changes, such that the individuals become more selfish.
The research found that in response to the emergence of the new infection, there was a rise in the frequency of aggressive behaviour.
The scientists also found that when more aggressive behaviour was introduced, the number of infected individuals decreased.
These results suggest that the emergence or spread of the virus could have had a major impact on human behaviour, the researchers said.
The study also suggested that a population could evolve to be more hostile, but there were also some “non-zero” consequences, such a decrease in the number or the frequency in which individuals interacted.
“There’s no clear-cut reason why this would be,” Dr MacNeil said.
“I’m not sure that there’s a single answer that explains it, but the model fits well with our understanding of human behaviour.”
Dr McNeill said that his research could also help to understand the evolution of infectious diseases.
“When I look at the spread of Aedes, it seems to me that Aedes is evolving at a faster rate than the other species.
We can’t say how fast, but we can say that we are getting a bigger piece of that puzzle, and we can use that to try and understand the origins of infectious disease.”
The researchers are now studying the evolutionary history of the Aedes mosquito, which has been found to be involved in about half of all tropical forest fires in the world.
The mosquito was discovered in 1891 and is now found across much of Asia, Africa and South America.
It has a long history of spreading and killing, and is thought by some scientists to be responsible for the vast majority of tropical fires.
The current outbreak has claimed more than 6,000 lives.