Mammalian Biology

, Volume 73, Issue 5, pp 358–370 | Cite as

Morphological evidence of species differentiation within Lepus capensis Linnaeus, 1758 (Leporidae, Lagomorpha) in Cape Province, South Africa

  • Fernando PalaciosEmail author
  • Chiara Angelone
  • Germain Alonso
  • Santiago Reig
Original Investigation


A morphological study was carried out of the hares (Lepus) from Cape Province previously assigned to the subspecies L. capensis capensis, L. c. centralis, and L. c. grantii. The purpose of the study was to characterize the species L. capensis Linnaeus, 1758. In doing so, it was possible to distinguish two populations which we consider different species, as each shows homogeneous cranial, dental and pelage features. One of them, defined as L. capensis, is distributed near Cape Town not far from the coast, between Lambert’s Bay and Cape Agulhas. The other species, defined as L. centralis, which includes L. grantii as a synonym, is distributed in central and western Cape Province. L. capensis and L. centralis have a parapatric distribution, with a small area of sympatry in a contact zone in Compagnies Drift area, near Lambert’s Bay. With respect to cranial differences between the two species, L. capensis has a stronger maxilla and more robust dental series, while L. centralis has larger tympanic bullae. Among dental characters, L. centralis usually has a deeper groove and more abundant cement than L. capensis in the first upper incisor, and its internal lobe is squared, while in L. capensis is rounded. As for pelage color and pattern, L. capensis shows a more extended white ventral area than L. centralis. Our results are of interest for further research on taxonomic problems regarding Old World hare populations in which L. capensis is concerned.


Lepus capensis L. centralis Taxonomy Syntypes Museum collections 

Morphologische Hinweise auf artliche Differenzierung innerhalb des Taxons Lepus capensis Linnaeus, 1758 (Leporidae, Lagomorpha) in der Kapprovinz Südafrikas


Die Hasen (Lepus) der Kap-Provinz, die bisher den Unterarten L. capensis capensis, L. c. centralis und L. c. grantii zugerechnet werden, wurden morphologisch untersucht. Das Ziel der Studie war, die Art L. capensis Linnaeus, 1758 näher zu charakterisieren. Dabei konnten zwei distinkte Populationen unterschieden werden, die wir als verschiedene Arten ansehen, da innerhalb beider Populationen homogene Schädel-, Zahn- und Fellmerkmale existieren. Die eine Art, die wir als L. capensis definieren, kommt bei Kapstadt in Küstennähe, zwischen Lambert’s Bay und Cape Agulhas, vor. Die andere Art, die wir als L. centralis definieren (mit grantii als Synonym), ist in der zentralen und westlichen Kap-Provinz verbreitet. L. capensis und L. centralis sind parapatrisch verbreitet mit einem kleinen Sympatrie-Areal in der Kontaktzone im Compagnies Drift Gebiet nahe Lambert’s Bay. Differenzen im Schädelbau beider Arten sind bei L. capensis durch eine kräftigere Maxilla und robustere Zahnreihen gegeben, während L. centralis größere Ohrblasen aufweist. Der erste obere Schneidezahn von L. centralis ist in der Regel tiefer gefurcht und hat mehr Zement als bei L. capensis, auch ist der innere Lobus bei der erstgenannten Art quadratisch und bei L. capensis abgerundet. In der Fellfärbung ist L. capensis durch ein ausgedehnteres weißes Bauchfell von L. centralis unterschieden. Unsere Resultate sind relevant für alle weiteren taxonomischen Untersuchungen an Hasen der Alten Welt, sofern Populationen von L. capensis betroffen sind.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amori, G., Angelici, F.M., Prigioni, C., Vigna Taglianti, A., 1996. The mammal fauna of Italy: a review. Hystrix 8, 3–7.Google Scholar
  2. Baley, R.C., Byrnes, J., 1990. A new old method for assessing measurement error in both univariate and multivariate morphometric studies. Syst. Zool. 39, 124–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonhomme, F., Fernández, J., Palacios, F., Catalan, J., Machordon, A., 1986. Caractérisation biochimique du complexe d’espèces du genre Lepus en Espagne. Mammalia 50, 495–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cabon-Raczynska, K., 1964. Studies on the European hare. III. Morphological variation of the skull. Acta Theriol. 9, 249–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ellerman, J.R., Morrison-Scott, T.C.S., 1951. Checklist of Palaeartic and Indian Mammals (1758 to 1946). Trustees of The British Museum (National History), London.Google Scholar
  6. Ellerman, J.R., Morrison-Scott, T.C.S., Hayman, R.W., 1953. Southern African Mammals (1758–1951): A Reclassification. Trustees of The British Museum (National History), London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Estonba, A., Solís, A., Iriondo, M., Sanz-Martín, M.J., Pérez-Suárez, G., Markov, G., Palacios, F., 2006. The genetic distinctiveness of the three Iberian hare species: Lepus europaeus, L. granatensis, and L. castroviejoi. Mamm. Biol. 71, 52–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Flux, J.E.C., Angermann, R., 1990. The hares and jackrabbits. In: Chapman, J.A., Flux, J.E.C. (Eds.), Rabbits, Hares and Pikas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, pp. 61–94.Google Scholar
  9. Forsyth Major, C.I., 1898. On fossil and recent Lagomorpha. Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 7, 433–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hoffmann, R.S., 1993. Order Lagomorpha. In: Wilson, D.E., Reeder, D.M. (Eds.), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, pp. 807–827.Google Scholar
  11. Hoffmann, R.S., 1998. The trouble with Lepus capensis. Euro-American Mammal Congress, Santiago de Compostela, p. 94 (abstract).Google Scholar
  12. Keay, R.W.J., Aubréville, A., Duvigneaud, P., Hoyle, A.C., Mendonça, F.A., Pichi-Sermolli, R.E.G., 1958. Vegetation Map of Africa South of the Tropic of Cancer. Oxford University Press, London.Google Scholar
  13. Marcus, L.F., 1990. Traditional morphometrics. In: Rohlf, F.J., Bookstein, F.L. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Michigan Morphometrics Workshop. Special Publication #2, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  14. Marcus, L.F., Reig, S., 1991. Data capturing software for digital calipers. In: Proceedings of the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists, Manhattan, KS (abstract).Google Scholar
  15. Palacios, F., 1983. On the taxonomic status of the genus Lepus in Spain. Acta Zool. Fennica 174, 27–30.Google Scholar
  16. Palacios, F., 1989. Biometric and morphologic features of the species of the genus Lepus in Spain. Mammalia 73, 227–264.Google Scholar
  17. Palacios, F., 1996. Systematics of the indigenous hares of Italy traditionally identified as Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778 (Mammalia, Leporidae). Bonn. Zool. Beitr. 46, 59–91.Google Scholar
  18. Palacios, F., López Martínez, N., 1980. Morfología dentaria de las liebres europeas (Lagomorpha, Leporidae). Doñana, Acta Vert. 7, 61–81.Google Scholar
  19. Pérez-Suárez, G., Palacios, F., Boursot, P., 1994. Speciation and paraphyly in western mediterranean hares (Lepus castroviejoi, L. granatensis and L. capensis) revealed by mytochondrial DNA phylogeny. Biochem. Genet. 32, 423–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Petter, F., 1959. Eléments d’une révision des Lièvres africains du sous-genre Lepus. Mammalia 23, 41–67.Google Scholar
  21. Petter, F., 1961. Eléments d’une révision des Lièvres européens et asiatiques du sous-genre Lepus. Zeitschr. f. Säugetierk. 26, 1–11.Google Scholar
  22. Pierpaoli, M., Riga, F., Trocchi, V., Randi, E., 1999. Species distinction and evolutionary relationships of the Italian hare Lepus corsicanus as described by mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Mol. Ecol. 8, 1805–1817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Roberts, A., 1951. The Mammals of South Africa. Trustees of the Mammals of South Africa Book Fund, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  24. Robinson, T.J., 1986. Incisor morphology as an aid in the systematics of the South African Leporidae (Mammalia, Lagomorpha). S. Afr. J. Zool. 21, 297–302.Google Scholar
  25. Robinson, T.J., Dippenaar, N.J., 1987. Morphometrics of the South African Leporidae. II. Lepus Linnaeus, 1758 and Bunolagus Thomas, 1929. Ann. Transvaal Mus. 34, 379–404.Google Scholar
  26. SAS Institute Inc., 1989. SAS Users Guide. Statistics. V6.3. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Palacios
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chiara Angelone
    • 1
    • 2
  • Germain Alonso
    • 3
  • Santiago Reig
    • 4
  1. 1.Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)MadridSpain
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze GeologicheUniversitá Roma TreRomeItaly
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad Complutense, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasMadridSpain
  4. 4.Unidad de Medicina Experimental Laboratorio de ImagenHospital General Universitario Gregorio MarañónMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations