SHORT COMMUNICATION: A phantom extinction? New insights into extinction dynamics of the Don-hare Lepus tanaiticus

Authors

  • S. PROST,

    1. Research Group Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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    • 1

      Present address: Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Vienna, Austria.

    • 5

      These authors contributed equally to the manuscript.

  • M. KNAPP,

    1. Research Group Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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    • 2

      Present address: Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

    • 5

      These authors contributed equally to the manuscript.

  • J. FLEMMIG,

    1. Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics, Medical Department, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
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  • A. K. HUFTHAMMER,

    1. University of Bergen, Natural History Collections, Bergen, Norway
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  • P. KOSINTSEV,

    1. Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology RAS, Yekaterinburg, Russia
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  • M. STILLER,

    1. Research Group Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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    • 3

      Present address: Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

  • M. HOFREITER

    1. Research Group Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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    • 4

      Present address: Department of Biology, University of York, York, UK.


Stefan Prost, Research Group Molecular Ecology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Tel.: +43 6649250243; fax: +43 1790449001;
e-mail: stefan.prost@gmi.oeaw.ac.at

Abstract

The Pleistocene to Holocene transition was accompanied by a worldwide extinction event affecting numerous mammalian species. Several species such as the woolly mammoth and the giant deer survived this extinction wave, only to go extinct a few thousand years later during the Holocene. Another example for such a Holocene extinction is the Don-hare, Lepus tanaiticus, which inhabited the Russian plains during the late glacial. After being slowly replaced by the extant mountain hare (Lepus timidus), it eventually went extinct during the middle Holocene. Here, we report the phylogenetic relationship of L. tanaiticus and L. timidus based on a 339-basepair (bp) fragment of the mitochondrial D-loop. Phylogenetic tree- and network reconstructions do not support L. tanaiticus and L. timidus being different species. Rather, we suggest that the two taxa represent different morphotypes of a single species and the extinction of ‘L. tanaiticus’ represents the disappearance of a local morphotype rather than the extinction of a species.

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