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The genetic structure of natural and reintroduced roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) populations in the Alps and central Italy, with reference to the mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of Europe


G. Bertorelle, Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy. Fax: + 39 0532249761; E-mail:


The first hypervariable fragment (HVI) of the mitochondrial DNA control region was sequenced in 90 individuals of the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) from the Alps, central Italy and Spain. Pooling these data with 70 published sequences from several European regions, we were able to identify patterns of divergence within the Italian peninsula, and in Europe in general. The results we obtained can be summarized as follows. First, the genetic structure of European roe deer populations is substantial (ΦST values around 0.6). Second, the divergence between some central Italian populations, the Alpine group (which is genetically close to the French, the Spanish and the Norwegian samples) and the Eastern European populations seems to reflect Upper Pleistocene subdivisions, possibly related to three southern European refugia. Third, a different group of central Italian individuals probably diverged more recently from the Alpine group, and their attribution to the subspecies C. c. italicus does not appear justified. Fourth, the analysis of mitochondrial DNA in the roe deer can be used to identify recently reintroduced animals in the western Alps which clearly cluster within the Eastern European group, thus providing an important tool for conservation and management strategies for this species.