Genetic variation within and among brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778) populations in Serbia as inferred from microsatellites

Mihajla Djan, Nevena Veličković, Milomir Stefanović, Vladimir Marković, Dragana Obreht Vidaković, Ljiljana Vapa


Brief introduction: The European brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778) is the only Lepus species that can be found in Serbia, and Balkan Peninsula where it represents an important game species. Previous analyses of brown hares in Serbia based on allozyme and mtDNA sequence variability revealed moderate genetic diversity and indicated possible population structuring in the region. The aim of this study is to detect population genetic diversity and structure in brown hares from Serbia using microsatellites.

Material and Methods: A total number of 157 brown hares were collected from six different regions in Serbia and polymorphism of six microsatellite loci was analyzed. Following computer packages were used for the data analyses: ARLEQUINE, STRUCTURE, GENETIX, BOTTLENECK and NEWHYBRIDS.

Results: A total number of 81 alleles at 6 loci were found. The highest number of alleles per locus was found at Lsa2 microsatellite loci (20), while the lowest number of alleles was present at loci Sat5 and Lsa3 (9), with an average of 7.86 alleles/locus in total sample. Different statistical approaches revealed that brown hare population from Serbia is structured into two genetic subunits (i.e., subpopulations). First subpopulation, named Northern-Central-Eastern (NCE) Serbia consists of five initially defined groups (Bačka, Banat, Srem, Central Serbia and Eastern Serbia) while second subpopulation comprised of individuals from Western Serbia. Higher values of genetic diversity parameters were found in NCE Serbia subpopulation compared to Western Serbia subpopulation.

Conclusion: Observed genetic differentiation should be considered in future brown hare management strategies, in order to preserve existing genetic diversity and to avoid further reduction of genetic variability in Western Serbia subpopulation or human mediated admixtures which can disturb present gene pools.


genetic diversity, Lepus europaeus, microsatellites, Serbia

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Creative Commons License
This journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.