Given its relevance as a game species, the brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778) is one of the most managed and trans- located mammals in Europe. In Italy, the species shows a genepool consisting of a mix of native and exotic lineages, due to translocations and introductions for hunting purposes. Some authors argued that the introduction of exotic brown hares could have caused the extinction of an endemic subspecies, L. e. meridiei Hilzheimer 1906, once present in central and northern Italy. Here we genetically characterized for the first time the brown hare population living in Pianosa island (part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park) using 13 STR loci and a fragment of the mtDNA control region. All individuals analyzed share a unique haplotype, the L. europaeus haplotype Leu2, recognized as the ancestral mitochondrial lineage corresponding to the subspecies L. e. meridiei. Furthermore, considering autosomal markers, Pianosa brown hare population and current Italian peninsular population are genetically distinct. The discovery of this ancient population in a protected area, isolated and not affected by recent translocation/restocking events, has a great relevance in conservation and confirms the current presence of the endemic subspecies L. e. meridiei in Italy. Keywords Lepus · Island · MtDNA ·
Conservation Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: May 29, 2018
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