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Keywords:

  • Bayesian inference ;
  • biogeography ;
  • European roe deer ;
  • mtDNA control region ;
  • phylogenetic reconstruction ;
  • Siberian roe deer

Areas of sympatry and hybridization of closely related species can be difficult to assess through morphological differences alone. Species which coexist and are similar morphologically may be distinguished only with molecular techniques. The roe deer (Capreolus spp.) is a meso-mammal having a Palaearctic distribution, with two closely related species: the European C. capreolus and the Siberian C. pygargus. We analysed mtDNA sequences from 245 individuals, sampled through all the entire range of the genus, to investigate the distribution of genetic lineages and outline phylogeographical patterns. We found that: (1) a C. pygargus lineage occurs in Poland and Lithuania, much farther west than the area which so far was believed its westernmost limit; (2) no haplotype of this C. pygargus lineage matches any found in East Europe and Asia – this should rule out human introductions and may indicate Pleistocene–Holocene migrations from the east; (3) no geographical structuring of C. pygargus lineages occurs, questioning the existence of putative subspecies; (4) several genetic lineages of C. capreolus can be recognized, consistent with the existence of two subspecies, respectively in central–southern Italy and southern Spain. Coalescence times suggest that intraspecific variation in C. capreolus and C. pygargus developed approximately 100–10 kya. The extant mitochondrial lineages pre-dated the Last Glacial Maximum. Capreolus pygargus must have moved westward to Central Europe, where at least one genetic lineage still survives, coexisting with C. capreolus. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London