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I understood


06 Nov 2017 - Alexandra Jamieson (University of Oxford, UK) | November 17, 2017 | 15h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão





Mountain hares today can be found from Scandinavia to Eastern Russia with isolated populations in Ireland, Scotland and the Alps. They are a cold adapted species found in mountainous and tundra environments. While their modern distribution is well understood, the extent of their past range and whether humans were responsible for transporting them beyond their natural range remains unknown. The primary aim of my research is to assess the natural and human-aided distribution of mountain hares across their circumpolar region. I am employing an ancient DNA approach to assess the geographic and temporal shifts in mitochondrial haplotypes. The study initially focuses upon the western most edge of their range, the Western Isles of Scotland. Mountain hares are thought to be a non-native species to the islands and their place of origin is unknown. They first appeared in archaeological deposits of the Mesolithic period. I will present here initial results showing where these mountain hares may have originated and how they came to be on the fringe of Europe. This not only informs us more about the species itself. It may even give us insights into the Mesolithic people's trade routes or possibly even the origins of the people themselves. This is only a start to my investigation into the movements of mountain hares and their interactions with past people. I am currently collecting material from across Europe and Russia from Palaeolithic to Medieval sites. I have already succeeded in acquiring ancient material from Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Russia.


Alex Jamieson is a second-year PhD student at the University of Oxford studying the movement of past peoples using small mammals as a proxy. The three species she is currently concentrating on are mountain hares, cats and black rats, all of which have known interactions with humans in the past. She has come from a background in archaeological sciences with a focus on ancient DNA. Alex has been researching mountain hares on the remote islands of the Western Isles of Scotland since 2012 when she undertook her first project looking into the origins of mountain hares to the islands. After a degree in archaeology at Durham, she went on to do a Masters at the University of York, where she helped develop a proteomics method identifying animal skins used in ancient parchment documents. Following York, she spent a few years contributing to research on the energy crisis, studying algae for biofuels and working for the open access journal, PLOS. Alex then came back to concentrate on ancient DNA research, her passion from the start.


[Host: José Melo-Ferreira, Population Genetics, Hybridization and Speciation]


Image credits: Jeff Veitch, Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group and Emily Blake

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