A phantom extinction? New insights into extinction dynamics of the Don-hare Lepus tanaiticus

S. Prost, M. Knapp, J. Flemmig, A. K. Hufthammer, P. Kosintsev, M. Stiller, M. Hofreiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Pleistocene to Holocene transition was accompanied by a worldwide extinction event affecting numerous mammalian species. Several species such as the woolly mammoth and the giant deer survived this extinction wave, only to go extinct a few thousand years later during the Holocene. Another example for such a Holocene extinction is the Don-hare, Lepus tanaiticus, which inhabited the Russian plains during the late glacial. After being slowly replaced by the extant mountain hare (Lepus timidus), it eventually went extinct during the middle Holocene. Here, we report the phylogenetic relationship of L. tanaiticus and L. timidus based on a 339-basepair (bp) fragment of the mitochondrial D-loop. Phylogenetic tree- and network reconstructions do not support L. tanaiticus and L. timidus being different species. Rather, we suggest that the two taxa represent different morphotypes of a single species and the extinction of 'L. tanaiticus' represents the disappearance of a local morphotype rather than the extinction of a species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2022-2029
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of evolutionary biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010

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