Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Ecology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Introgression of mountain hare (Lepus timidus) mitochondrial DNA into wild brown hares (Lepus europaeus) in Denmark

Tina Fredsted1*, Trine Wincentz2 and Palle Villesen3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Genetics, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Aarhus, Ny Munkegade, building 1540, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

2 National Environmental Research Institute, Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, Grenaavej 14, DK-8410 Ronde, Denmark

3 BiRC – Bioinformatics Research Center, University of Aarhus, H.-Guldbergs Gade 10, Building 1090, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Ecology 2006, 6:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-6-17

Published: 15 November 2006

Abstract

Background

In Europe the mountain hare (Lepus timidus) exists in Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, parts of the Alps and in Eastern Europe, but not in Denmark. Interspecific hybridization has been demonstrated between native Swedish mountain hares and introduced brown hares (Lepus europaeus). During the data collection in a study concerning Danish brown hares we identified 16 hares with a single very divergent haplotype.

Results

Phylogenetic analysis shows that the divergent Danish haplotype is most closely related to the Swedish mountain hare. The frequency of Lepus timidus mtDNA haplotype in the Eastern Danish hare populations is estimated to 6%.

Conclusion

In contrast to what is known, the Danish hare populations are not pure L. europaeus populations but include introgressed brown hares with Swedish L. timidus mtDNA. The most probable explanation of this is natural migration or translocation of introgressed brown hares from Sweden. The impurity of hare populations has implications for conservation and population genetics.