Genetic diversity and population structure of the Western European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus: conservation status of populations in the Iberian Peninsula

Anthropogenic habitat fragmentation and roadkill mortality are considered important threats to European hedgehogs. Habitat fragmentation isolates hedgehog populations and, as a consequence, reduces their genetic diversity and leads the populations to vulnerable situations. The hedgehog populations in the Iberian Peninsula represent the southern limit of the species. We used microsatellite markers to estimate the genetic diversity and population structure of Erinaceus europaeus on the Iberian Peninsula. The obtained results indicated the presence of two differentiated groups, north-western and north-eastern, which coincided with the distribution of the two phylogeographic mitochondrial lineages described in the Peninsula. Moreover, in the north-eastern group, three genetically different clusters (Girona, Central Catalonia and Zoo) were identified. The highest genetic diversity (Hs = 0.696) was detected in the north-western region. Significant genetic differentiation (FST range = 0.072–0.224) was found among the clusters, indicating that these groups are well differentiated and present low gene flow. We concluded that the north-western group is genetically stable, whereas in the north-eastern region, despite some contact among groups, some populations are isolated and vulnerable ​
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