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Importance of the genetic characterization of wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and hare (Lepus granatensis) for the management of populations

A PCR/RFLP of 1147bp fragment of the cytochrome b gene has been screened in 685 individuals from 50 wild rabbit populations in order to assess mtDNA variability, the distribution of the two described rabbit mtDNA lineages (A and B) and introgression events. Artificial and natural introgression can be distinguished, because artificially introgressed populations show the typical domestic rabbit haplotypes, B1Rba and B3Rba that are absent or very scarce in the O. c. cuniculus populations closest to the Iberian Northwest. Almost all Portuguese populations have the lineage A, typical to Oryctolagus cuniculus algirus subespecies. However, we detected artificial introgression in some of the northwestern populations, probably due to restocking activities with both hybrids and domestic rabbits. Natural introgression was also observed in northeastern populations, due to the proximity of the contact zone between the two subspecies. A fragment of the wild rabbit mtDNA control region of about 500bp was sequenced in 83 individuals from 7 different populations. Preliminary results attest the great variability of this mitochondrial region. A more detailed survey will be carried out and future analysis will be performed with this data. Genetic variability of the Y chromosome was screened in wild rabbit populations with 2 PCR-RFLPs. With this method we were able to distinguish 2 well-defined lineages - CrYA and CrYB. In this study 105 individuals from 16 different populations spread along the portuguese territory were screened. All the individuals belong to CrYA lineage, which is characteristic of O.c. algirus.We also studied mtDNA variability in 11 Iberian hare populations. All hares showed clear L. granatensis haplotypes with the exception of several individuals from Bragança and Sendim. These individuals carry a different haplotype due to an ancient introgression of Lepus timidus mtDNA. The information provided by this study will allow a detailed genetic characterization of autochthonous populations of rabbit and hare, the determination of the adequate donor population for restocking and the evaluation of the efficiency of management measures.

Principal Investigator
Paulo Célio Alves

Paulo Célio Alves

Position: Associate Professor
Proponent Institution
Funded by
AGRO – 8.1
2001 (Duration: 2 years)
AGRO – 8.1 – Proj 234/2001
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