The proposed ancient coevolutionary history of T. cruzi with its mammalian hosts is based on the relatively recent acquisition of hematophagic habits by the triatomine vectors. Although the origin of their Reduviidae ancestors dates from about 230 million years ago, the vast majority of its subfamilies consists of predatory insects and so far, only one supposedly hematophagic fossil species was found. Thus, the digenetic cycle observed today, which involves triatominae vectors and mammalian hosts, seems to have started only after the acquisition of hematophagic habits by triatomines, which is supposed to have occurred approximately 5 million years ago, and after the adaptation of the parasite to the gut of these vectors. T. cruzi adapted to new hosts as they arrived in South America: initially rodents and primates, and later, bats and carnivores. The diversity of mammalian hosts species introduced in the T. cruzi transmission cycle provided different selective pressures that resulted in the huge variety of parasite subpopulations observed today, which have distinct biological and molecular patterns. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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