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European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 581–587 | Cite as

Evidence of autumn reproduction in female European hares (Lepus europaeus) from southern Europe

  • Aglaia AntoniouEmail author
  • Georgios Kotoulas
  • Antonios Magoulas
  • Paulo Célio Alves
Original Paper

Abstract

Information on reproductive biology of the European hare (Lepus europaeus) in different environmental and landscape conditions comprises part of fundamental knowledge regarding species’ adaptive responses as well as many aspects of its biology. Most of the studies conducted on European hare reproduction are confined to midlatitude and northern populations, whereas no data exist on the indigenous southern populations. Here, we present information on reproductive characteristics of European hares inhabiting Mediterranean ecosystems on the island of Crete, Greece for two successive hunting seasons. Although the annual reproductive cycle of the species is well known, with an autumn sexual inactivity, the duration of this period is subjected to fluctuations in different years and for different areas. According to our data, hare populations of Crete present an autumn–early winter reproductive activity with high proportions of pregnant females observed in all the months of the study. Furthermore, the estimated mean litter size (1.54 SE ± 0.07) while signed to the lowest values ever observed for European hares is similar to values obtained in continuous breeding species of the same genus, Lepus granatensis, Lepus corsicanus, Lepus (capensis) mediterraneus, and Lepus capensis also inhabiting warm climates. In conclusion, our results suggest that Cretan European hare populations exhibit a reproductively active period during autumn–early winter where proportions of pregnant females and litter size give a strong indication of a continuous reproduction throughout the year.

Keywords

Continuous reproduction Adaptation Mediterranean Greece Crete 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank all hunters and Hunting Associations of Crete and especially Mr. M. Fragiadoulakis (president of the 1st Hunting Association of Irakleio) for providing samples and sharing their experience. We thank K. Lika, M. Giannoulaki, N. Lampadariou, and A. Parmakelis for helping on the statistical analysis. We would also like to thank N. Poulakakis and A. Parmakelis for their suggestions on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Finally, we are indebted to the reviewer for very constructive comments. This study was performed in accordance with current Hellenic legislation.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aglaia Antoniou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Georgios Kotoulas
    • 2
  • Antonios Magoulas
    • 2
  • Paulo Célio Alves
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology University of CreteIrakleioGreece
  2. 2.Department of Genetics and Molecular BiotechnologyInstitute of Marine Biology and Genetics, Hellenic Centre for Marine ResearchIrakleioGreece
  3. 3.CIBIO, Centro de investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos & Departamento de Zoologia-Antropologia da Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal

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