Inferring the Evolutionary History of the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) from Molecular Markers

  • Nuno Ferrand

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a well-known species all over the world and occurs in both wild and domestic forms. European rabbits are present in most of Europe, North Africa, parts of South America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in more than 800 islands, where they occupy a huge variety of ecosystems (Thompson and King 1994). Its domestic counterpart exhibits a remarkable variety of breeds showing variation in colour, size and fertility. Domestic breeds are kept and raised globally for meat, wool and fur, and also as increasing popular pets. However, for most of its history, the European rabbit was confined to the Iberian Peninsula where the species is supposed to have emerged in the mid-Pleistocene. We know this from the analysis of the fossil record that in addition, places also in the Iberian Peninsula the emergence of genus Oryctolagus (Lopez-Martinez 2008, this book). The subsequent geographical expansion and successful colonization of multiple territories is as recent as historical times and has been mostly human-mediated. This expansion eventually ended in a domestication process that is unique to Western Europe.


Iberian Peninsula Glacial Refugium Oryctolagus Cuniculus Wild Rabbit European Rabbit 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nuno Ferrand
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosCampus Agrário de VairãoVairão
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoologia e AntropologiaUniversidade do Porto, Praça Gomes TeixeiraPortoPortugal

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