High genetic diversity and low population structure in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from Croatia
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a highly adaptable omnivorous mammal distributed across all continents on the northern hemisphere. Although the red fox is present throughout Europe, where it plays an important ecological and socio-economic role not only as a game species but also as a rabies reservoir, few studies have examined its population-level mitochondrial DNA variability. In this study, 27 mitochondrial DNA control region haplotypes were identified in 229 red fox samples taken from four regions in Croatia. Haplotype diversity of Croatian red foxes (0.901) was found to be among the highest of all European red fox populations studied to date. Genetic differentiation among regions was quite low, and statistically significant estimates of differentiation were obtained only when comparing the population from the peninsular region of Istria with the three continental populations. It seems that landscape barriers like rivers and small mountains do not restrict gene flow among foxes in the continental part of Croatia, while the combination of a narrow land bridge and altitudes exceeding 1000 m limit fox migration between Istria and the rest of the continent. Better understanding of small-scale population structure will require analysis of highly variable nuclear markers like microsatellites.
KeywordsRed fox Vulpes vulpes Croatia Control region Population differentiation
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