"Structure of the mitochondrial control region of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra; Carnivora, Mustelidae): Patterns of genetic heterogeneity and implications for conservation of the species in Italy"

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2005
Authors:Ketmaier, V, Bernardini, C
Journal:Journal of Heredity
Date Published:2005
Keywords:Canidae, CARNIVORA, Felidae, Hyaenidae, Lutra lutra, Mustelidae, Panthera tigris, Ursidae

In this study we determined the complete sequence of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra). We then compared these new sequences with orthologues of nine carnivores belonging to six families (Mustelidae, Mephitidae, Canidae, Hyaenidae, Ursidae, and Felidae). The comparative analyses identified all the conserved regions previously found in mammals. The Eurasian otter and seven other species have a single location with tandem repeats in the right domain, while the spotted hyena (Hyaenidae) and the tiger (Felidae) have repeated sequences in both the right and left domains. To assess the degree of genetic heterogeneity of the Eurasian otter in Italy we sequenced two fragments of the gene and analyzed length polymorphisms of repeated sequences and heteroplasmy in 32 specimens. The study includes 23 museum specimens collected in northern, central, and southern Italy; most of these specimens are from extinct populations, while the southern Italian samples belong to the sole extant Italian population of the Eurasian otter. The study also includes all the captive-reared animals living in the colony "Centro Lontra, Caramanico Terme" (Pescara, central Italy). The colony is maintained for reintroduction of the species. We found a low level of genetic polymorphism; a single haplotype is dominant, but our data indicate the presence in central and southern Italy of two slightly divergent haplotypes. One haplotype belongs to an extinct population, the other is present in the single extant Italian population. Analyses of length polymorphisms and heteroplasmy indicate that the autochthonous Italian samples are characterized by a distinct array of repeated sequences from captive-reared animals.

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