Suchentrunk, Franz and Ben Slimen, Hichen and Stamatis, Costas and Sert, Hacer and Scandura, Massimo and Apollonio, Marco (2006) Molecular approaches revealing prehistoric, historic, or recent translocations and introductions of hares (genus Lepus) by humans. Human Evolution, Vol. 21 (2), p. 151-165. eISSN 1824-310X. Article.
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Although only of medium size, and thus of little nutritional value compared to big game such as mammoths and ungulates, hares (Lepusspp.) probably have always been a food source for humans, as documented in archaeological finds. Nowadays, hares, particularly such species as the brown hare (L. europaeus), are among the most important game species in many European countries. For hunting, perhaps religious reasons, and in connection with certain myths, hares have been and are still being intentionally translocated. Ancient translocations by humans can be inferred from the presence of hares on islands that had no mainland connections, at least during the Pleistocene, the major evolutionary period of the genus Lepus. We review some of the literature on anthropogenic translocations of hares. We focus on three examples [the brown hare (L. europaeus), the Corsican hare (L. corsicanus), and the Sardinian hare (L. capensis)], where some molecular data could be used to trace the translocation routes and possible origins of introduced hare populations. Certain molecular marker systems, such as sequences of the hypervariable part I (HV-1) of the mitochondrial control region, show high variability in hare species and are thus promising for tracing both recent and ancient origins of translocated hares. Some other molecular marker systems as well as caveats connected with the use of such marker systems in the genus Lepus are also discussed.
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