Comparison of allozyme and microsatellite variability in brown hare populations (Lepus europaeus Pallas) from Vojvodina (Serbia)

Mihajla Djan, Dunja Popović, Nevena Veličković, Dragana Obreht, Ljiljana Vapa


The brown hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas) is a widely popular game species throughout Europe and a species of specific biological and economical interest, which plays an important role in the hunting economy of Vojvodina (Serbia). Awareness of the value of genetic resources has encouraged studies of the genetic diversity present in different game populations. The aim of the present study was to evaluate genetic diversity in brown hare populations from Vojvodina using two molecular marker systems, allozyme and microsatellite variability, and to compare the data obtained using these two methods. Standard protocols for allozyme and microsatellite analyses in brown hares were used to measure the degree of genetic variability within and among three brown hare populations from Vojvodina: Backa, Banat and Srem, defined using geographical criterion. Both marker systems revealed significant differences between observed and expected heterozygosity in the populations, as well as positive fixation indice values. Significant deviations from Hardy-Weinberg expectations were not detected for all analyzed loci, indicating that the detected deficit of heterozygotes was the consequence of slight gene pool substructuring, rather than inbreeding effects. Microsatellite analysis revealed negligible population differentiation, while allozyme analysis revealed slightly moderate differentiation, supporting previous data showing that there is a generally shallow gene pool divergence among brown hare populations in Europe. Graphical analysis of allozyme variability data suggests lower genetic differentiation between Banat and Srem brown hare populations, in contrast with phylogenetic trees derived from microsatellite variability data, where Backa and Banat brown hare populations were genetically less different. Considering previous analyses of the same populations using nuclear and mtDNA variability data, which suggest a closer gene pool affinity between Backa and Banat, we conclude that although fewer markers were employed, microsatellite-derived data still yields more reliable results than allozyme variability data.

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