The RAPD method was used to assess the genetic differentiation of brown hare (Lepus europaeus) populations from Central Greece. Greek wild populations were compared with samples from Austria, Poland, Germany, France, and Bulgaria, as well as with reared/released hares to investigate the impact of the releases on the native populations" genetic structure. The absence of diagnostic bands distinguishing between L. europaeus populations confirmed the high level of gene flow between brown hare populations over long geographic distances reported by other authors. Phylogenetic trees, derived from genetic distances estimated by RAPD band frequencies, suggested one major partitioning event of nuclear DNA lineages found in the samples. The reared individuals clustered with the Austrian, Polish, German, and French populations, whereas the Greek populations clustered apart with the Bulgarian population. Within Greece the distribution of the six wild populations did not follow any geographical trend, since their genetic divergence did not seem to correlate to geographic distances. However, RAPD profiles of some reared and wild specimens were different from the common RAPD pattern observed in the vast majority of sampled hares, probably reflecting an admixture of genetically differentiated individuals. The RAPD analysis indicates that releases might have begun to affect Greek population structure and reinforces the view that appropriate management is needed, adjusted to the local populations" biology and ecology.
Animals Electrophoresis, Agar Gel Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel Genetic Markers Genetics, Population* Hares/genetics* Rabbits Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Technique*