The taxonomic status and geographic distribution of the European hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778) in Turkey (Mammalia: Lagomorpha)


Abstract: This study was based on 125 specimens of hares collected from 61 different localities in Turkey between 2006 and 2010. We present diagnostic characters, pelage coloration, external, cranial and phallic measurements, skull and phallus features, hair structure, and collection localities of hares from Turkey. Additionally, we analyze morphometric variations of 5 regional populations according to the physiography/orography of the study area. Among the morphometric variables, 10 characters (weight, tail length, basal length, condylobasal length, rostral breadth, height of braincase, foramen incisiva length, occipitonasal length, profile length, and mandible length) are found to be significantly different between the populations (ANOVA, P < 0.01). Principal component analysis of 22 morphometric measurements is performed, and 71.56% of total variance is explained through 5 principle components. The Thracian specimen is distinguished from other populations on the first 2 canonical discriminant functions and the cluster dendrogram. The hair structure, as examined by scanning electron microscope, is found to be flattened and imbricate. Our Anatolian specimens are discussed at the subspecies level, comparing them to the relevant literature, and it is concluded that Lepus europaeus in Anatolia is represented by only one subspecies, Lepus europaeus syriacus.

Keywords: Lepus europaeus, morphology, morphometric analysis, taxonomy, Turkey

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