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Nicosia, Cyprus

Barbanera F.,University of Pisa | Pergams O.R.W.,University of Illinois at Chicago | Guerrini M.,University of Pisa | Forcina G.,University of Pisa | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation

Introduction of wildlife for game restocking is one major pathway of genetic homogenization. The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa, Phasianidae), a small game bird native to south-western Europe, is in high demand by hunters and natural populations are constantly supplemented by commercial stocks of captive-bred individuals. Also, in recent years human-mediated hybridization with congeneric chukar partridges (Alectoris chukar: Greece, Cyprus, from Middle East to East Asia) has been frequently documented in the wild and in captivity. This study attempts to evaluate the genetic consequences of intensive captive breeding and restocking in the A. rufa species. We investigated A. rufa genetic diversity by making comparisons in both a spatial (across the entire species' range) and a temporal framework. We accomplished this latter by comparing modern vs. ancient partridges resident in museums and collected 1856-1934, well before supplemental stocking became common. Using mtDNA we found significant changes in the haplotype profile of modern vs. ancient A. rufa, and widespread introgression with chukar genes across the entire species range only in modern representatives, with the relevant exception of Corsican populations. However, Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD), as opposed to microsatellite DNA markers, showed also modern Corsican populations to harbour many A. rufa × A. chukar hybrids. We conclude that captive breeding programs should make strict use of time-saving and comparatively low cost DNA barcodes to minimize genetic pollution, such as those provided by diagnostic RAPD markers. We also recommend that the active ban on import of exotics and/or hybrids be extended to non-local populations. Altogether this would represent a substantial step forward to preserve A. rufa as well as other game species subjected to similar intensive management. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Barbanera F.,Protistology Zoology Unit | Guerrini M.,Protistology Zoology Unit | Beccani C.,Protistology Zoology Unit | Forcina G.,Protistology Zoology Unit | And 2 more authors.
Forensic Science International: Genetics

Molecular DNA techniques in combination with appropriate reference population database and statistical methods are fundamental tools to forensic wildlife investigations. This is even more relevant when taxa with uncertain systematics are involved, as is the case of the genus Ovis (Bovidae), whose evolution has been influenced by multiple events of domestication. The Cypriot mouflon, Ovis orientalis ophion, a protected subspecies endemic to Cyprus, is threatened by poaching. This study deals with a case of alleged poaching that occurred in Cyprus (September, 2010). A car did not stop at a checkpoint and when finally blocked by the police, several bloodstained exhibits (n = 12) were recovered. Three recently deceased mouflons were found by game wardens at the roadside. The Cyprus Veterinary Services established that these animals had been killed by gunshot. As part of the investigation, DNA testing was performed to establish if there was a link between the dead mouflons and the bloodstained exhibits. The mitochondrial Cytochrome-b gene (Cyt-b) and 12 loci of microsatellite DNA were used as markers. The Cyt-b sequences were obtained from 11 exhibits. They were the same as each other and the same as the single haplotype obtained from the three dead mouflons and all the investigated wild Cypriot mouflons (20 individuals). A database of wild mouflons (47 individuals) from which the unknown samples may have originated was generated. The probability of identity (P ID) of the microsatellite panel, computed by genotyping all 47 wild mouflons (10 selected loci, P ID = 10 -5), allowed us to assign nine exhibits to two out of the three carcasses (seven with very strong support: Likelihood Ratio, LR > 3000 and Random Match Probability, RMP, <10 -3). This study represents the first genetic reference for the Cypriot mouflon and the first published material of forensic wildlife investigations in Cyprus. © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Forcina G.,Protistology Zoology Unit | Panayides P.,Cypriot Game Fund Service | Guerrini M.,Protistology Zoology Unit | Gupta B.K.,Central Zoo Authority | And 10 more authors.
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

We investigated the evolution of the Asian francolins, five little known species in the genus Francolinus (Phasianidae). Evolutionary affinities of two of these species, F. gularis (swamp francolin) and F. pondicerianus (grey francolin), has long remained unclear. In contrast, the other three species, F. pintadeanus (Chinese francolin), F. pictus (painted francolin) and F. francolinus (black francolin) have been cast among the "spotted francolins" on a morphological and ecological basis. Previous molecular DNA investigations including Asian francolins mostly relied upon partial gene sequencing of one specimen per species (no more than three species and with the exclusion of F. pictus). Therefore, fundamental questions do persist. What relationship exists among the spotted and the other Asian francolins? What is the geographic origin of the black francolin, the species with the largest distribution range? How did the geological history influence the diversification of francolins across Asia? We sequenced the entire Control Region of the mitochondrial DNA in 228 samples of all five Asian francolin species, which were collected in 16 countries (from East Europe to East Asia). We constructed a molecular phylogeny according to four different procedures. We showed the monophyly of each of the Asian francolins and the spotted group, while that of the entire Asian group was presumed according to a biogeographical model we proposed. The splitting of the genus Francolinus occurred ∼17.4. Ma (95% HPD: 13.4-22.1) while the spotted francolins diverged ∼10.5. Ma (7.0-14.9). We resolved the most recent common ancestor to painted and black francolin as being in the Indian sub-continent, thus suggesting a westwards adaptive radiation of the latter. In Pakistan, we identified F. f. asiae representatives in the Northern Areas and in the Sindh. The latter represents a relict population of Indian fauna within the Pakistani range of the Great Rann of Kachchh. © 2012 Elsevier Inc. Source

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