mtDNA diversity in a rabbit population from Sicily (Italy)


Abstract: The European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (O. c.) is a small game species found in several parts of the world and represents an important resource for many predators. It has been classified as a Near-Threatened species on the Red List of Italian Vertebrates even though it is also considered to be an agricultural pest species in many areas. It is a polytypic species present as two known subspecies: and O. c. algirus. The Italian geographical distribution of the two subspecies is known, but mostly based on morphological, biogeographic, and historical literature data. In Sicily, there is no complete genetic description of the actual existing subspecies; previous studies have only reported the differences in size of the Sicilian rabbit population. In this study, we analyzed genetic data within a phylogenetic framework through mitochondrial (mt) cytochrome b (cyt b) DNA from 13 rabbit samples collected from different sites in Sicily. We reconstructed the intraspecific phylogeny by comparing cyt b mtDNA sequences of 13 newly isolated O. cuniculus haplotypes from Sicily and 7 individuals from other areas (Canada, France, Mexico, North Italy, South Africa, Spain, Sweden). Our results show that the rabbit population from Sicily has a mitochondrial type (lineage B) previously shown to be associated with O. c. cuniculus, which is similar to sequences from rabbits in Northeast Spain, South France, Sweden, and South Africa.

Keywords: Biodiversity, rabbit taxonomy, cyt b mitochondrial DNA, Oryctolagus cuniculus

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