Influence of management regime and population history on genetic diversity and population structure of brown hares (Lepus europaeus) in an Italian province
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Canu, A., Scandura, M., Luchetti, S. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2013) 59: 783. doi:10.1007/s10344-013-0731-x
- 278 Downloads
In many areas, the management of overexploited populations of brown hare (Lepus europaeus) is based on annual restocking. While in some cases exotic hares are introduced, in some others hares are captured locally within protected areas and subsequently released into hunting grounds. We evaluated the genetic effects of this management regime in an Italian province where the brown hare population has recovered in the last few decades, by sequencing the hypervariable domain 1 of the mitochondrial control region and by genotyping eight autosomal microsatellites in hares sampled in both hunting and non-hunting areas. Both nuclear (He = 0.68 and Ho = 0.65) and mitochondrial variability (h = 0.853 and π = 0.012) were in line with other European populations. When comparing our data with mitochondrial sequences retrieved from GenBank, out of the 21 detected haplotypes, 14 were private to our study area. While 4.6 % of the individuals were found to carry haplotypes attributable to past introductions, 41.5 % grouped within a well-supported lineage, previously identified with a presumed native Italian taxon, L. e. meridiei. Despite the detectable geographic partitioning of mitochondrial haplotypes across the province, no genetic structure resulted from microsatellites analysis, indicating that no reproductive barriers exist among hares carrying different mitochondrial lineages. In conclusion, the local management seems to have contributed to the recovery of the species and to a full admixture of nuclear genes in the province. However, neither the extensive translocations nor the possible introductions of exotic heads seem to have completely undermined the local mitochondrial lineages.