Invasion from the cold past: extensive introgression of mountain hare (Lepus timidus) mitochondrial DNA into three other hare species in northern Iberia

Authors

  • J. MELO-FERREIRA,

    1. CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485–661 Vairão, Portugal,
    2. Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Portugal,
    3. IREC, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC/UCLM/JCCLM), Spain,
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  • P. BOURSOT,

    1. UMR 5171, Genome Population Interaction Adaptation, Université Montpellier II, France,
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  • F. SUCHENTRUNK,

    1. Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria.
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  • N. FERRAND,

    1. CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485–661 Vairão, Portugal,
    2. Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Portugal,
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  • P. C. ALVES

    Corresponding author
    1. CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485–661 Vairão, Portugal,
    2. Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Portugal,
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Paulo C. Alves, Fax: + 351 252661 780. E-mail: pcalves@fc.up.pt

Abstract

Mitochondrial DNA introgression from Lepus timidus into Lepus granatensis and Lepus europaeus was recently reported in Iberia, although L. timidus presumably retreated from this region at the end of the last ice age. Here we assess the extent of this ancient mtDNA introgression by RFLP analysis of 695 specimens representing the three hare species present in Iberia. The introgressed L. timidus lineage was found in 23 of the 37 populations sampled. It is almost fixed in L. europaeus across its Iberian range in the Pyrenean foothills, and in L. granatensis, which occupies the rest of the peninsula, it is predominant in the north and gradually disappears further south. We also found it in Lepus castroviejoi, a species endemic to Cantabria. Multiple hybridizations and, potentially, a selective advantage for the L. timidus lineage can explain the remarkable taxonomic and geographical range of this mitochondrial introgression.

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