Get access

Unexpected population genetic structure of European roe deer in Poland: an invasion of the mtDNA genome from Siberian roe deer



Introgressive hybridization is a widespread evolutionary phenomenon which may lead to increased allelic variation at selective neutral loci and to transfer of fitness-related traits to introgressed lineages. We inferred the population genetic structure of the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in Poland from mitochondrial (CR and cyt b) and sex-linked markers (ZFX, SRY, DBY4 and DBY8). Analyses of CR mtDNA sequences from 452 individuals indicated widespread introgression of Siberian roe deer (C. pygargus) mtDNA in the European roe deer genome, 2000 km from the current distribution range of C. pygargus. Introgressed individuals constituted 16.6% of the deer studied. Nearly 75% of them possessed haplotypes belonging to the group which arose 23 kyr ago and have not been detected within the natural range of Siberian roe deer, indicating that majority of present introgression has ancient origin. Unlike the mtDNA results, sex-specific markers did not show signs of introgression. Species distribution modelling analyses suggested that C. pygargus could have extended its range as far west as Central Europe after last glacial maximum. The main hybridization event was probably associated with range expansion of the most abundant European roe deer lineage from western refugia and took place in Central Europe after the Younger Dryas (10.8–10.0 ka BP). Initially, introgressed mtDNA variants could have spread out on the wave of expansion through the mechanism of gene surfing, reaching high frequencies in European roe deer populations and leading to observed asymmetrical gene flow. Human-mediated introductions of C. pygargus had minimal effect on the extent of mtDNA introgression.