First molecular evidence on the puzzling origin of beavers in central Italy
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Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Regioni Lazio e Toscana “M. Aleandri”, Centro di Referenza Nazionale per la Medicina Forense Veterinaria, 58100 Grosseto, Italy
Department of Biology and Biotechnology “C. Darwin”, Sapienza University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy
Istituto di Ricerca sugli Ecosistemi Terrestri IRET, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Florence), Italy
National Biodiversity Future Center (NBFC), 90133 Palermo, Italy
Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia.
Institute of Integrative Nature Conservation Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Vienna, Austria.
Online publication date: 2023-10-06
Publication date: 2023-10-06
Corresponding author
Antonella Pizzarelli   

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Regioni Lazio e Toscana “M. Aleandri”, Centro di Referenza Nazionale per la Medicina Forense Veterinaria, 58100 Grosseto, Italy
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2023;34(2):140-143
The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) represents an extraordinary example of demographic recovery after centuries of severe hunting and extirpation. Reintroduction programs and legal protection have triggered the recolonisation of Europe, with rapid expansion of beaver populations in the last 25 years. In northern Italy, the species reappeared in 2018 after a 450-years absence, due to natural spreading of individuals from neighbouring countries. Since 2021, the presence of beavers has been reported in several areas of central Italy, probably following unofficial releases. Here, we employed mitochondrial DNA markers, mainly from non-invasive samples, to rule out the presence of the North American beaver (C. canadensis) and to characterise both the beavers from northern Italy and the new population from central Italy, assessing their genetic relationships with other European beavers. The analysis of 35 samples from Italy and other countries provided no evidence of the North American sister taxon and revealed four widely distributed mitochondrial haplotypes, which are discussed in the current framework of genetically mixed populations in Europe. In addition, this note reports genetic data from beavers in the Balkans, where no information has been available so far.
We thank Marco Gobbi, Giuseppe Mazza, Renato Pontarini, Elias Pesenti, Rosemarie Parz-Gollner and Elmar Bürgy, who kindly provided us with samples. We thank Danilo Russo for networking, as well as all the volunteers who helped us in data collection, with a special regard to Chiara Pucci and Davide Senserini. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions that improved the quality of the manuscript.
EM and AV were funded by the Project “Rivers with Beavers”, DĆ by Ministry of Science, Technological Development and Innovation, Republic of Serbia (contract 451-03-47/2023-01/ 200178). EM was also funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), Mission 4 Component 2 Investment 1.4 - Call for tender No. 3138 of 16 December 2021, rectified by Decree n.3175 of 18 December 2021 of Italian Ministry of University and Research funded by the European Union – NextGenerationEU; Project code CN_00000033, Concession Decree No. 1034 of 17 June 2022 adopted by the Italian Ministry of University and Research, CUP B83C22002930006, Project title “National Biodiversity Future Center - NBFC”.
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