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Biochem Genet. 2005 Dec;43(11-12):577-96.

Biochemical genetic relationships among Tunisian hares (Lepus sp.), South African cape hares (L. capensis), and European brown hares (L. europaeus).

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Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire, Immunologie et Biotechnologie, Faculté des Sciences de Tunis, Campus Universitaire El Manar, 2029, Tunis, Tunisia.


Tunisian hares (n = 45), currently assigned to Lepus capensis, were assayed for allelic variation at 40 allozyme loci, and allele frequencies at 32 loci were directly compared with earlier data of South African cape hares (L. capensis, n = 9) and European brown hares (L. europaeus, n = 244) to reveal genetic relationships among them. European mountain hares (L. timidus, n = 200) were used for outgroup comparison. In the Tunisian hares 27.5% of the loci were polymorphic with 2-4 alleles. Among all alleles at polymorphic loci, 15.1% occurred exclusively in Tunisian hares, 5.7% exclusively in cape hares, and 7.5% exclusively in brown hares at low frequencies. Not a single locus showed alternately fixed alleles between the samples of the L. capensis/L. europaeus complex. Levels of absolute and relative genetic differentiation among the samples of the L. capensis/L. europaeus complex were low, relative to pairwise comparisons involving mountain hares. Diverse cluster analyses and multidimensional scaling of various pairwise genetic distance matrices concordantly grouped Tunisian hares with brown hares, and South African cape hares clustered only slightly farther apart, whereas mountain hares were distinctly separate. These results suggest regionally distinct phylogenetic units within an overall cohesive gene pool in the L. capensis/L. europaeus complex, supporting Petter's view that all North African hares belong to L. capensis except for one local population of savanna hares, and that cape hares and brown hares are conspecific.

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