Genetic variability and population structure of chamois in Greece (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica)
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Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) is the southernmost subspecies within the distribution of the genus in Europe. In Greece, which is its marginal area of distribution, the population presents a fragmented pattern. This is the first study that investigates genetic variability and structure of Greek chamois. We collected samples from the wider Pindus mountain range, Mount Olympus, the Rhodope mountains and from the North-Northwestern mountains. Individuals were screened for mitochondrial (mt) sequences, cytochrome b (cytb) and control region (CR), and 18 microsatellite loci. Only one haplotype of cytb was observed. Sequences of the CR showed extensive variability grouping into three differentiated clades, one of them including specimens of the subspecies asiatica and caucasica. The GenBank haplotypes of balcanica from the Dinarides form a different clade. There is differentiation among geographical areas both for the CR as well as for microsatellites. In particular, the Olympus population is clearly distinct from the rest and shows low diversity. This differentiation can be related to recent isolation and small population size more than to a singular long evolutionary history, given that the haplotypes present there are shared by the Pindus populations. The chamois in Greece harbor an outstanding amount of variability within the species R. rupicapra and hence merit the implementation of special conservation measures. We propose actions to prevent further fragmentation in the wider area of Pindus and the North-Northwestern mountains. For the isolated populations of Olympus and the Rhodopes, conservation must focus on actions to maintain a viable population size.
KeywordsRupicapra rupicapra balcanica Microsatellites mtDNA Population structure Balkans Conservation
We thank Sara de Albornoz and Victoria Coupe for the correction and improvement of our English. This work was funded by grant CGL2007-64315 from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (FEDER support included). Special thanks to Ass. Prof V. Kati for her contribution to the MS writing, to Rhodope National Park Management Body and to the members of Balkan Chamois Society for their support in samples’ collection as well as to the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy (Department of Wild Life and Game) for providing the relative license for this study.
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