, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 375-384

High mtDNA haplotype diversity among introduced Swedish brown haresLepus europaeus

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The brown hareLepus europaeus Pallas, 1778 occurs naturally in central Eurasia, but has been introduced to parts of northern Europe, South- and North America, Australia and New Zealand. Brown hares were introduced to Sweden from central Europe for hunting purposes during the 19th century. We investigated how the human--mediated brown hare colonisation of Sweden is reflected in the amount of genetic variation present by assessing variation and composition of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages among Swedish brown hares. MtDNA from a total of 40 brown hare specimens from 15 localities were analysed for Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms. The haplotype diversity is surprisingly high (0.893 ± 0.002) when compared to the mtDNA diversity among brown hares on the European continent as well as to other mammalian species. Admixture of haplotypes from different source populations combined with a reduced effect of random genetic drift and a relaxed selection pressure due to rapid population growth after introduction are mechanisms that are likely to account for the observed high mtDNA haplotype diversity.