Scandura, Massimo and Iacolina, Laura and Slimen, Hichem Ben and Suchentrunk, Franz and Apollonio, Marco (2007) Mitochondrial CR-1 variation in Sardinian hares and its relationships with other old world hares (Genus Lepus). Biochemical Genetics, Vol. 45 (3-4), p. 305-323. eISSN 1573-4927. Article.
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Among the European fauna, the Sardinian hare (Lepus sp.) is peculiar in that it differs from all other hares inhabiting the continent. Here, we report on the variation of a 461 bp sequence of hypervariable domain 1 of the mitochondrial control region, examined in 42 hares collected throughout Sardinia and compared to the corresponding sequences of different Lepus taxa. Seventeen novel haplotypes were found in the Sardinian population, resulting in a haplotype diversity of 0.840 and a nucleotide diversity of 0.012. As a result of Bayesian and principal coordinates analyses, Sardinian hares were grouped with North African hares, constituting a monophyletic clade that diverges from all other Old World hares, including Cape hares from South Africa and East Asia. Hence, our data agree that populations inhabiting North Africa and Sardinia form a distinct taxon, which could possibly be included in the L. capensis superspecies. Moreover, two corresponding lineages can be found in Sardinia and Tunisia, providing evidence of a common origin of the two populations and thus supporting the hypothesis that North African hares were introduced into the island in historical times. Our data show that the two lineages differ in their geographic distribution throughout the island and that the wild Sardinian population also shows the signature of a postintroduction demographic expansion.
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