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Marina di Pisa, Italy

Barbanera F.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | Forcina G.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | Cappello A.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | Guerrini M.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | And 2 more authors.
Biological Invasions | Year: 2014

Invasive alien species are a major cause of biodiversity loss. Nevertheless, non-native species can also contribute to conservation objectives. In 1673, the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), a galliform native to southwest Europe, was introduced from France (A. r. rufa) into the UK for hunting purposes. Nowadays, hunters constantly supplement natural populations of A. rufa in its native range with stocks of captive-bred individuals. Such birds are usually genetically unscreened, and human-mediated hybridization with the exotic chukar (Alectoris chukar) has undermined genomic integrity of the species. Alectoris rufa in the UK has never been genetically investigated, and birds from East Anglian estates with no modern history of supplementation offer a potential genomic backup for the highly polluted native-range A. r. rufa. We genotyped modern and ancient (1824–1934) birds at the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) level to determine present and past kinship between East Anglian and native-range A. rufa. We used Short Tandem Repeats (STR) and Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to identify A. rufa × A. chukar hybrids. The kinship of East Anglian birds with A. r. rufa was confirmed. No A. chukar introgression was found in ancient East Anglian A. rufa. Among modern partridges, we found birds with A. chukar mtDNA, and both STRs and RAPDs disclosed many A. rufa × A. chukar hybrids. While the genetic analysis pointed to the increase of diversity and decline of disparity over time within and among A. rufa populations, respectively, the conservation value of the resource historically introduced to the UK proved to have been quashed by three decades of recent releases of A. chukar and its A. rufa hybrids. © 2014, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Forcina G.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | Panayides P.,Game Fauna Service | Kassinis N.,Game Fauna Service | Guerrini M.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit | Barbanera F.,Zoology and Anthropology Unit
Journal for Nature Conservation | Year: 2014

The release of exotic genotypes into the wild can lead to the extinction of local demes through the hybridization among distinct gene pools. This may occur between wild specimens and their domesticated relatives. Escaped pets represent a well-known pathway for the introduction of allochtonous resources, and island environments require major attention as they include small-sized and naïve populations that may be prone to extinction. We characterized the genetic make-up of the black francolin (Francolinus francolinus, Phasianidae) resident to Cyprus using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA for the purpose of sustainable use and long-term protection of this game species. We collected 59 samples of specimens hunted in the districts of Nicosia and Paphos, while others (n=18) were obtained from birds of unknown origin. These had been imported to a pet-centre in Nicosia, the largest in the capital offering animals either for production or leisure purposes. Both genetic systems pointed to the occurrence of distinct wild district populations that could be treated as separate management units. The non-significant value of the inbreeding coefficient (FIS) computed for Nicosia and Paphos populations (-0.039 and -0.189, respectively: P>0.05) and the lack of evidence for recent genetic bottlenecks did not indicate a serious risk of over-hunting. The microsatellites revealed the birds in the pet-centre as highly genetically divergent with respect to the wild ones, the mtDNA pointed to their assignment to alien Asian subspecies once they were compared to141 sequences of allopatric francolins. We advised the Game & Fauna Service to consider law enforcement to ban the import, detention and sale of these subspecies to protect the black francolin population native to Cyprus. The results are discussed in the context of a bibliographic frame including the partridges of the genus Alectoris (Phasianidae) as a model group with reference to genetic characterization and conservation of game bird island populations. © 2013 Elsevier GmbH.

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