, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 33-42
Date: 11 Jun 2009

Current status of the Sardinian partridge (Alectoris barbara) assessed by molecular markers

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Four Alectoris species inhabit the Mediterranean area, where they represent important gamebirds subject to human manipulations. The Sardinian partridge is peculiar in Europe, in that it belongs to the African species Alectoris barbara. Nevertheless, no comprehensive study has as yet investigated its genetic status as regards both the extant levels of genetic diversity and the possible contamination due to introgressive hybridization with other Mediterranean species. For the purposes of this study, we analyzed 65 samples of Sardinian partridges, 40 of which came from the wild population and 25 from captive stocks. No one of them showed a mtDNA polymerase chain reaction restriction fragment length polymorphism haplotype assigned to another species than A. barbara, thus, ruling out a possible introgression in the maternal line. In addition, we compared these samples with 94 partridges from other circum-Mediterranean populations using a set of eight chicken (Gallus gallus) microsatellites. A low level of genetic variation was observed in the Sardinian population (H E = 0.310; k AR = 2.69), comparable only to that observed in the Sicilian rock partridge (A. graeca). The comparison with the Tunisian population showed that its present genetic composition is consistent with a historical introduction from North Africa, showing possible effects of a post-introductional genetic drift. Bayesian tests assigned all but one individuals with >90% probability to A. barbara, thus, providing evidence that no or only a few exotic Alectoris genes have introgressed into Sardinian partridges.

Communicated by E. Hadjisterkotis