How, and to what extent, does the environment influence the way mutations interact? Do environmental changes affect both the sign and the magnitude of epistasis? Are there any correlations between environments in the variability, sign or magnitude of epistasis? Very few studies have tackled these questions. Here, we addressed them in the context of viral emergence. Most emerging viruses are RNA viruses with small genomes, overlapping reading frames and multifunctional proteins for which epistasis is abundant. Understanding the effect of host species in the sign and magnitude of epistasis will provide insights into the evolutionary ecology of infectious diseases and the predictability of viral emergence.