Phylogeography and post-glacial history of the European squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris

Andrea Grill

The red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, has declined dramatically in Europe during the last century. Nevertheless, phylogeographic data covering its entire distribution area, which provide the basis to identify the evolutionary significant units of this species and to establish an effective conservation strategy on a European scale, are still missing. Our project is directed at tracing the present phylogeographic patterns in the Western, Central, Southern and Eastern European populations of S. vulgaris, including the Balkans and European Russia. Genetic variation and differentiation of S. vulgaris populations will be assessed and past demographic changes be inferred. Western and Central European samples will be compared to samples from localities in Southern and Eastern Europe. This will finally allow us to reconstruct the genetic history of the species in Europe since the last glacial maximum and to assess the consequences of the expansion of the introduced S. carolinensis, which may be loss of genetic variation, hybridization and genetic introgression. The data collected will be used to define evolutionary significant units for the red squirrel on which conservation efforts can be targeted, and provide practical recommendations for its management in order to prevent further decline of European populations.

Dr Andrea Grill, Istituto Nazionale per la Fauna Selvatica, Laboratorio di Genetica, Via Cà Fornacetta, 9, 40064 Ozzano Emilia (BO), Italy. Tel: +39 051 6512 253. e-mail: 

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