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Ben Slimen, H; Suchentrunk, F; Memmi, A; Sert, H; Kryger, U; Alves, PC; Ben Ammar Elgaaied, A
Evolutionary relationships among hares from North Africa (Lepus sp.), cape hares (L. capensis) from South Africa, and brown hares (L. europaeus), as inferred from mtDNA PCR-RFLP and allozyme data.
Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (44) 88-99.
Systematics and taxonomy of hares of the genus Lepus (Lagomorpha) are under contentious debate, and phylogenetic relationships among many taxa are not well understood. Here we study genetic differentiation and evolutionary relationships among North African hares, currently considered subspecies of Lepus capensis, cape hares (L. capensis) from the Cape province in South Africa, and brown hares (L. europeaus) from Europe and Anatolia, using maternally (mtDNA) and biparentally (allozymes) inherited markers. A polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis of a c. 1.8 kb long segment of the mitochondrial control region using eight hexanucleotide-recognizing restriction endonucleases yielded 28 haplotypes, and horizontal starch gel electrophoresis of proteins encoded by 25 structural gene loci revealed 52 alleles at 18 polymorphic loci. Diverse phylogenetic analyses (neighbor joining dendrogram, median joining network, multidimensional scaling of pairwise distances, AMOVA, F-statistics, hierarchical F-statistics) of genetic variants revealed marked substructuring of mtDNA into three phylogeographic groups, namely an African, a central European, and an Anatolian, but a somewhat less pronounced overall differentiation of the nuclear genome, despite a relatively high number of population-specific (private) alleles. However, all our results are not incongruent with Petter's (1959: Mammalia 23, 41; 1961: Z. f. Saugetierkunde26, 30; 1972: Societe Des Sciences Naturelles et Physiques du Maroc52, 122) hypothesis that North African hares generally belong to L. capensis and that brown hares should be included in this species as well.