The Pleistocene climatic oscillations promoted the diversification in avian species during the last glacial period. The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa, Family Phasianidae) has a large natural distribution extending from the Mediterranean to humid temperate zones. However, the genetic structure for this species is unknown. The present study investigates the phylogeography, genetic structure and demographic history of A. rufa across its distribution, employing both mitochondrial DNA control region sequences and nuclear microsatellite loci. Our results propose that this species was greatly affected by Pleistocene glaciations. The mismatch analyses suggest that the current populations resulted from post-glacial expansion and subsequent differentiation resulting in five diagnosable genetic clusters: Southwestern, Central-eastern, Northwestern, Balearic and French and Italian. Further, we found evidence of three glacial refugia within the currently recognized Iberian glacial refugium. The intraspecific structure revealed by both maternal and biparental phylogeographic analyses was not resolved in the phylogenetic analyses. Based on all considerations, we recommended that five management units be recognized.
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