Evol Ecol Res 14: 897-920 (2012)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Conservation of threatened local gene pools: landscape genetics of the Italian roe deer (Capreolus c. italicus) populations

Nadia Mucci1, Federica Mattucci1 and Ettore Randi1,2

1Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA), Laboratorio di Genetica, Ozzano Emilia (BO), Italy and  2Department 18/Section of Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark

Correspondence: N. Mucci, Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA), Laboratorio di Genetica, Via Cà Fornacetta 9, 40064 Ozzano Emilia (BO), Italy.
e-mail: nadia.mucci@isprambiente.it


Background: The endemic Italian roe deer (Capreolus c. italicus) is threatened by introgressive hybridization with the introduced and expanding European subspecies Capreolus c. capreolus. Population genetic surveys show that some populations in central Italy are not yet admixed with the introduced subspecies.

Question: Is it possible to identify and map the distributions of native and admixed roe deer populations?

Methods: We obtained and analysed diagnostic mitochondrial DNA control-region sequences and individual genotypes at 11 autosomal microsatellite loci in 1051 roe deer samples collected from the entire distribution of Italian roe deer and from reference populations of European roe deer. We used classical and Bayesian statistical approaches to describe the genetic substructure of roe deer populations in Italy. We used admixture analyses and landscape genetic tools to map the fine-scale distributions of Italian roe deer populations and locate their admixture zones.

Results: A very few fragmented patches of the Italian roe deer do survive in central Italy. Although these populations are seriously threatened by hybridization with expanding European roe deer, they can be genetically identified and, by means of translocations, saved from genetic extinction.

Discussion: Italian roe deer populations exist and are still viable, but their survival is threatened by the expansion of reintroduced European roe deer. The rapid identification of suitable and pristine areas to which pure individuals from remaining patches could be translocated appears the best way to preserve the Italian roe deer genetic pool.

Keywords: Bayesian clustering, Capreolus capreolus italicus, conservation genetics, genetic admixture and introgression, Italian roe deer, landscape genetics.

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