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Keywords:

  • dispersal;
  • genetics;
  • life-history;
  • phylogeography;
  • systematics

ABSTRACT

  • 1
    Despite it being the most abundant mountain dwelling ungulate of Europe and the Near East, the taxonomy, systematics and biology of the chamois are still imperfectly known. Although neither species of chamois is at risk, several subspecies are threatened (Rupicapra rupicapra cartusiana, Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica and Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica; Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata. Rupicapra rupicapra asiatica is data-deficient but probably threatened).
  • 2
    A life history with apparently contradictory relationships between survival, sexual dimorphism and mating system suggests a unique survival strategy not yet fully understood. Over the last century, morphologic, biometric, behavioural and genetic features have been studied to shed light on the phylogeography and monophyly or polyphyly of the chamois as well as on the number of existing species and subspecies of the genus Rupicapra.
  • 3
    The dispersal hypothesis, according to which R. rupicapra migrated westward from eastern Europe in the Quaternary, confining R. pyrenaica to the southernmost regions of Europe, has been recently called into question by some molecular analyses that yielded contradictory results.
  • 4
    In spite of subtleties relevant to each method of analysis, an overall evaluation of differences between the R. rupicapra and the R. pyrenaica groups strongly supports the functional separation of the taxa into two species.
  • 5
    Further studies on the ecology of chamois, as well as on the epidemiology of severe diseases, e.g. sarcoptic mange, are needed to improve the management of viable populations.
  • 6
    Before translocations and reintroductions are carried out, the risk of hybridization leading to genetic extinction should be evaluated.