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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2009

Authors: Suchentrunk, F; Ben Slimen, H; Kryger, U

Title: Molecular evidence of conspecificity of South African hares conventionally considered Lepus capensis L., 1758.

Source: Mamm Biol (74), 5 325-343.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Suchentrunk Franz

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology

Conventionally, Lepus capensis is considered to range across large parts of Africa, the Middle East., Central and Far East Asia. However, a recent morphological study restricts cape hares tentatively to a small range in the Western Cape Region of South Africa and groups all other L. capensis- type hares from South Africa into a new species: L. centralis. Here, we studied molecular relationships among L. capensis-type hares from South Africa. Phenotypically and morphologically the individuals matched either the newly described L. capensis or L. centralis. We examined 66 hares for allelic variation at 13 microsatellite loci and for sequence variation of the hypervariable domain I of the mitochondrial control region. All tree-generating analyses of the currently obtained sequences and all South African cape hare sequences downloaded from GenBank revealed monophyly when compared to sequences of various other Lepus species. A network analysis indicated close evolutionary relationships between hares of the "L. capensis-phenotype" and the "L. centralis-phenotype" (according to Palacios et al. 2008) from the southwest of the Western Cape, relative to their pronounced evolutionary divergence from all other more central, northern, and north-eastern L. capensis-type hares. F-statistics, a Bayesian admixture STRUCTURE model, as well as a principal coordinate of microsatellite data indicated close genetic relationships among all South African L. capensis-type hares analysis I presently. A coalescence model-based migration analysis for microsatellite alleles indicated gene flow between most of the considered subspecies of cape hare, including L. capensis capensis and L. capensis centralis, theoretically sufficient to balance stochastic drift effects. Concordantly, AMOVA models revealed only little effects of partitioning microsatellite variation into the two suggested morpho-species "L. capensis" and "L. centralis". Under an "Interbreeding Species Concept" (e.g. a strict or relaxed Biological Species Concept), the current molecular data demonstrate conspecificity of the two proposed morpho-species "L. capensis" and "L. centralis". Based on the present molecular data the differentiation of subspecies of cape hares from southern Africa is discussed. (C) 2009 Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Saugetierkunde. Published by Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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