Since the discovery of Tobacco mosaic virus nearly 120 years ago, most studies on viruses have focused on their roles as pathogens. Virus ecology takes a different look at viruses, from the standpoint of how they affect their hosts[U+05F3] interactions with the environment. Using the framework of symbiotic relationships helps put the true nature of viruses into perspective. Plants clearly have a long history of relationships with viruses that have shaped their evolution. In wild plants viruses are common but usually asymptomatic. In experimental studies plant viruses are sometimes mutualists rather than pathogens. Virus ecology is closely tied to the ecology of their vectors, and the behavior of insects, critical for transmission of many plant viruses, is impacted by virus-plant interactions. Virulence is probable not beneficial for most host-virus interactions, hence commensal and mutualistic relationships are almost certainly common, in spite of the paucity of literature on beneficial viruses.
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