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The genetic impact of demographic decline and reintroduction in the wild boar (Sus scrofa): A microsatellite analysis

Authors

  • C. Vernesi,

    1. Department of Biology, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy;
    2. ‘Biosfera — Conservation Biology, Research, and Education’, Florence, Italy;
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  • B. Crestanello,

    1. Department of Biology, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy;
    2. Centre of Alpine Ecology, Viote del Monte Bondone (TN), Italy;
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  • E. Pecchioli,

    1. Department of Biology, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy;
    2. ‘Biosfera — Conservation Biology, Research, and Education’, Florence, Italy;
    3. Centre of Alpine Ecology, Viote del Monte Bondone (TN), Italy;
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  • D. Tartari,

    1. Department of Biology, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy;
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  • D. Caramelli,

    1. ‘Biosfera — Conservation Biology, Research, and Education’, Florence, Italy;
    2. Department of Animal Biology and Genetics, University of Florence, Italy
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  • H. Hauffe,

    1. Centre of Alpine Ecology, Viote del Monte Bondone (TN), Italy;
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  • G. Bertorelle

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy;
      Giorgio Bertorelle. Tel. +39 532 291743; Fax: +39 532 249761; E-mail: ggb@unife.it
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Giorgio Bertorelle. Tel. +39 532 291743; Fax: +39 532 249761; E-mail: ggb@unife.it

Abstract

The reintroduction of wild boar from central Europe after World War II has contributed substantially to the range expansion of this species in Italy, where indiscriminate hunting in earlier times resulted in extreme demographic reduction. However, the genetic impact of such processes is not well-understood. In this study, 105 individuals from Italian and Hungarian wild boar populations were characterized for nine autosomal microsatellite loci. The Hungarian samples, and two central Italian samples from protected areas (parks) where reintroduction is not documented, were assumed to be representative of the genetic composition of the source and the target populations in the reintroduction process, respectively. Animals hunted in the wild in the Florence area of Tuscany (Italy) were then studied to identify the effects of reintroduction. The results we obtained can be summarized as follows: (i) none of the populations analysed shows genetic evidence of demographic decline; (ii) the three parental populations from Italy and Hungary are genetically distinct; however, the low level of divergence appears in conflict with the naming of the Italian and the European subspecies (Sus scrofa majori and Sus scrofa scrofa, respectively); in addition, the Italian groups appear to be as divergent from each other as they are from the Hungarian population; (iii) most of the individuals hunted near Florence are genetically intermediate between the parental groups, suggesting that hybridization has occurred in this area, the average introgression of Hungarian genotypes is 13%, but ≈ 45% of the genetic pool of these individuals can not be directly attributed to any of the parental populations we analysed; (iv) analysis of microsatellite loci, though in a limited number, is an important tool for estimating the genetic effect of reintroduction in the wild boar, and therefore for the development of conservation and management strategies for this species.

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