Although single stranded (ss) DNA viruses that infect humans and their domesticated animals do not generally cause major diseases, the arthropod borne ssDNA viruses of plants do, and as a result seriously constrain food production in most temperate regions of the world. Besides the well known plant and animal-infecting ssDNA viruses, it has recently become apparent through metagenomic surveys of ssDNA molecules that there also exist large numbers of other diverse ssDNA viruses within almost all terrestrial and aquatic environments. The host ranges of these viruses probably span the tree of life and they are likely to be important components of global ecosystems. Various lines of evidence suggest that a pivotal evolutionary process during the generation of this global ssDNA virus diversity has probably been genetic recombination. High rates of homologous recombination, non-homologous recombination and genome component reassortment are known to occur within and between various different ssDNA virus species and we look here at the various roles that these different types of recombination may play, both in the day-to-day biology, and in the longer term evolution, of these viruses. We specifically focus on the ecological, biochemical and selective factors underlying patterns of genetic exchange detectable amongst the ssDNA viruses and discuss how these should all be considered when assessing the adaptive value of recombination during ssDNA virus evolution.
Keywords: anellovirus; circovirus; geminivirus; nanovirus; parvovirus.