Cladogenesis of the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778)

  • Joerns Fickel
  • Heidi C. Hauffe
  • Elena Pecchioli
  • Ramon Soriguer
  • Ljiljana Vapa
  • Christian Pitra
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10344-008-0175-x

Cite this article as:
Fickel, J., Hauffe, H.C., Pecchioli, E. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2008) 54: 495. doi:10.1007/s10344-008-0175-x


A substantial portion of today’s biodiversity is attributed to the climatic oscillations of the Pleistocene Ice Ages. Gradual but dramatic climate changes were accompanied by expansion, contraction, and isolation of populations, promoting the accumulation of genome differences and adaptations in refugial populations and resulting in allopatric differentiation in a variety of taxa. In the present study, partial mitochondrial DNA sequences of the widely distributed European brown hare (Lepus europaeus) were analyzed to test whether the species’ present genetic structure is the result of postglacial re-colonization of Europe from Asia Minor (clade A) and the Balkans (clade B) only, as suggested previously, or if additional refugia are likely. Analyses indicated the presence of an additional refugium (Italy, clade I). The genealogic network of Italian hares displayed the tree-like structure expected from refugial populations, whereas central European brown hare haplotypes revealed a clear star-phylogeny indicative of past-bottleneck population growth. This population size expansion, which was confirmed by mismatch analysis, was estimated to have occurred ∼50–55 thousand years ago (kya). The divergence of clade A* from the remaining matrilines is estimated at 239 kya, whereas the divergence of the ancestors of clades B* and I from A* occurred about 128 kya.


Biogeography Mitochondrial DNA Glacial refugia 





central Europe




thousand years


thousand years ago


clade A with additional sequences


clade B with additional sequences

Supplementary material

10344_2008_175_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (134 kb)
Table S1Lepus europaeus collection sites sorted by occurring haplotype (HT) (DOC 138 kb)
10344_2008_175_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (116 kb)
Table S2109* haplotypes of 803 brown hares from Central Europe (CE, n = 770) and Italy (I, n = 33), defined on the basis of the mtDNA d-loop (335 bp) (DOC 118 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joerns Fickel
    • 1
  • Heidi C. Hauffe
    • 2
  • Elena Pecchioli
    • 2
  • Ramon Soriguer
    • 3
  • Ljiljana Vapa
    • 4
  • Christian Pitra
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary GeneticsLeibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Centro di Ecologia AlpinaBondoneItaly
  3. 3.Especies Cinegeticas y PlagaEstacion Biologica de Donaña C.S.I.C.SevilleSpain
  4. 4.Department of GeneticsTrg Dositeja Obradovica 2Novi SadSerbia