Skip to main content

Origin and patterns of genetic diversity of German fallow deer as inferred from mitochondrial DNA


Although not native to Germany, fallow deer (Dama dama) are commonly found today, but their origin as well as the genetic structure of the founding members is still unclear. In order to address these aspects, we sequenced ~400 bp of the mitochondrial d-loop of 365 animals from 22 locations in nine German Federal States. Nine new haplotypes were detected and archived in GenBank. Our data produced evidence for a Turkish origin of the German founders. However, German fallow deer populations have complex patterns of mtDNA variation. In particular, three distinct clusters were identified: Schleswig-Holstein, Brandenburg/Hesse/Rhineland and Saxony/lower Saxony/Mecklenburg/Westphalia/Anhalt. Signatures of recent demographic expansions were found for the latter two. An overall pattern of reduced genetic variation was therefore accompanied by a relatively strong genetic structure, as highlighted by an overall Phict value of 0.74 (P < 0.001).

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  • Chapman NG, Chapman N (1980) The distribution of fallow deer: a worldwide review. Mam Rev 10:61–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Marinis AM, Masseti M (2009) Mammalian Fauna of the Termessos National Park, Turkey. Zookeys 31:221–228

    Google Scholar 

  • Dupanloup I, Schneider F, Excoffier L (2002) A simulated annealing approach to define the genetic structure of populations. Mol Ecol 11:2571–2581

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Excoffier L, Laval G, Schneider S (2005) Arlequin ver. 3.0: An integrated software package for population genetics data analysis. Evol Bioinforma Online 1:47–50

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Haltenorth T (1959) Beitrag zur Kenntnis des Mesopotamischen Damhirsches, Cervus (Dama) mesopotamicus Brooke, 1875, und zur Stammes- und Verbreitungsgeschichte des Damhirsches allgemein. Säugetierkundl Mitt VII (S):1–89

  • Hartl GB, Schleger A, Slowak M (1986) Genetic variability in fallow deer, Dama dama L. Anim Genet 17:335–341

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Heidemann G (1976) Damwild in Kleinasien (Cervus dama Linné, 1758). Bestand und Schutz. Säugetierkdl Mitt 24:124–132

    Google Scholar 

  • Heidemann G (2010) Indigenous fallow deer (Cervus dama dama) in Turkey population decline and future conservation. Report of the Meeting in Antalya, Turkey from March 11th to 13th 2010

  • Ludwig A, Benecke N (2003) Zur Systematik und Paläontologie der Gattung Ovis mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Stellung des Europäischen Mufflons. Beiträge Jagd Wildforschung 28:35–45

    Google Scholar 

  • Masseti M (1996) The postglacial diffusion of the genus Dama Frisch, 1775, in the Mediterranean region. Suppl alle Ricerche di Biol della Selvag 25:7–29

    Google Scholar 

  • Masseti M, Mertzanidou D (2008) Dama dama. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2009:2

  • Masseti M, Pecchioli E, Romei A, Tilotta G, Vernesi C, Chiarelli B (1997) RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA) fingerprinting analysis of some Italian populations of fallow deer Dama dama. Ital J Zool Modena 64:235–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Masseti M, Pecchioli E, Vernesi C (2008) Phylogeography of the last surviving populations of Rhodian and Anatolian fallow deer (Dama dama dama L., 1758). Biol J Linnean Soc 93:835–844

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Niethammer G (1963) Die Einbürgerung von Säugetieren und Vögeln in Europa. Verlag Paul Parey, Hamburg

    Google Scholar 

  • Pemberton JM, Smith RH (1985) Lack of biochemical polymorphism in British fallow deer. Heredity 55:199–207

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Poetsch M, Seefeldt S, Maschke M, Lignitz E (2001) Analysis of microsatellite polymorphism in red deer, roe deer, and fallow deer - possible employment in forensic applications. Forensic Sci Intern 116:1–8

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Posada D (2008) jModelTest: Phylogenetic Model Averaging. Mol Biol Evol 25:1253–1256

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Putman RH (1988) The natural history of deer. Christopher Helm Mammal Series I-XVI 1–191 Christopher Helm, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Randi E, Appolonio M (1988) Low biochemical variability in European fallow deer (Dama dama L.): natural bottlenecks and the effects of domestication. Hered 61:405–410

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saribasak H, Kacar S, Basaran MA, Cengiz Y, Koker A, Sert A (2009) The Problems of an endangered species-fallow deer (Dama dama L. 1758). Book of Abstracts, XIII World Forestry Congress Buenos Aires Argentina, 18th-23rd Oct 2009 (

  • Say L, Naulty F, Hayden TJ (2003) Genetic and behavioural estimates of reproductive skew in male fallow deer. Mol Ecol 12:2793–2800

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schettler E, Steinbach F, Eschenbacher-Kaps I, Gerst K, Meussdoerffer F, Risch K, Streich WJ, Frölich K (2006) Surveillance for prion disease in Cervids, Germany. Emerg Infect Diseases 12:319–322

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ueckermann E, Hansen P (2002) Das Damwild—Biologie, Hege und Jagd. Kosmos, Stuttgart

    Google Scholar 

  • Wehner J, Müller HP, Orthwein L (1991) Untersuchungen zur genetischen Situation des Damwildes in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Z Jagdwiss 37:69–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Collection of samples and all analyses comply with the current laws in Germany. We thank Carla Pinho for proof reading. The authors thank all hunters and their organizations for undertaking sampling. Financial support was given by the Forschungsstelle für Jagdkunde und Wildschadenverhütung of the State North Rhine Westphalia.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arne Ludwig.

Additional information

Communicated by C. Gortázar

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ludwig, A., Vernesi, C., Lieckfeldt, D. et al. Origin and patterns of genetic diversity of German fallow deer as inferred from mitochondrial DNA. Eur J Wildl Res 58, 495–501 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Dama
  • Founder
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • D-loop
  • Roots