Analysis of MC1R genetic variation in Lepus species in Mediterranean refugia
A study on the inter- and intraspecies variation of MC1R gene was performed in Lepus species inhabiting the Mediterranean basin (L granatansis, L europaeus, L. corsicanus, L castroviejoi and L mediterraneus) and their neighboring species in Europe (L timidus) and Africa (L saxatilis, L capensis), in order to infer micro- versus macroevolutionary adaptation. Eleven different sequences were isolated that corresponded to five amino acid sequences. Comparison of MC1R nucleotide phylogenetic tree with phylogenies resulting from mtDNA regions of the same species showed absence of congruence between these sets of markers. The Mediterranean area that offered refugia during last glaciation retains more MC1R genotypes compared with populations of North and Central Europe as a consequence of founder effects. L corsicanus and L castroviejoi bore identical alleles supportive of their conspecificity, as indicated by other molecular markers. Within L. europaeus, a group of Israeli hares were distinguished by a different MC1R functional allele; additional differences in coat colour and other genetic markers raise doubts about its taxonomic status. Finally, the present data reinforced the idea of bi-directional introgressive hybridization between L europaeus and L. timidus in Switzerland. (C) 2012 Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Saugetierkunde. Published by Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.