An in-depth molecular study of infectious bronchitis viruses (IBV) with particular interest in evolutionary aspects of IBV in Spain was carried out in the present study based on the S1 gene molecular characterization of twenty-six Spanish strains isolated over a fourteen-year period. Four genotypes were identified based on S1 gene sequence analyses and phylogenetic studies. A drastic virus population shift was demonstrated along time and the novel Italy 02 serotype was shown to have displaced the previous predominant serotype 4/91 in the field. Detailed analyses of synonymous to non-synonymous ratio of the S1 gene sequences of this new serotype Italy 02 suggested positive selection pressures might have contributed to the successful establishment of Italy 02 serotype in our country. In addition, differences on the fitness abilities of new emergent genotypes were indicated. Furthermore, intergenic sequences (IGs)-like motifs within S1 gene sequences of IBV isolates were suggested to enhance the recombination abilities of certain serotypes. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.