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Lepus corsicanus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Lepus corsicanus
Species Authority: de Winton, 1898
Common Name(s):
English Corsican Hare, CORSICAN HARE, Apennine Hare, APPENINE HARE, Italian Hare
French LIÈVRE DE CORSE
Spanish LIEBRE DE CÓRCEGA
Taxonomic Notes: Formerly included in Lepus capensis or L. europaeus; see Ellerman and Morrison-Scott (1951) and Petter (1961); but see also Palacios et al. (1989) and Pierpaoli et al. (1999) who provided evidence of their specific distinctness (see also below).

The taxonomic status of L. corsicanus has been uncertain since its first description by De Winton in 1898. Its species rank was soon rejected by Miller (1912) and others, who considered L. corsicanus a subspecies of L. europaeus. However, Palacios (1996) studied historical museum specimen and described new morphological traits that provided phenotypic support for the species rank of the Apennine Hare. Recent molecular studies confirmed that L. corsicanus is a phylogenetically distinct species, which can be identified by concordant morphological and mtDNA traits. It is reproductively isolated and apparently does not hybridize with sympatric L. europaeus. Phylogenetical analyses suggested that corsicanus and europaeus are not closely related sister taxa, but belong to distinct evolutionary lineages that dispersed in western Europe in different periods during the early Pleistocene. L. corsicanus probably differentiated in isolated refuges in southern Italy during the last glaciation. Comparative analyses of genetic variability highlighted a phylogeographical structure of the Apennine Hare. Recently, it has been hypothesized that L. corsicanus and L. castroviejoi are conspecific, based on preliminary molecular studies involving low sample size and mtDNA (Alves et al. 2003).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bcde+3bcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Angelici, F.M., Randi, E., Riga, F. & Trocchi, V.
Reviewer(s): Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
Our assessment is based on field surveys (spotlight censuses, hunting bag, captures, etc) and on molecular analyses of specimens collected by a network of helpers (hunters, park rangers, etc). This species has been monitored continuously since 1997 in continental Italy and Sicily.

L. corsicanus shows a variable conservation status across its distribution range. Due to the fragmentation and scarcity of L. corsicanus populations in continental Italy, mainland status is classified as endangered (following Angelici and Luiselli 2001). However, the creation of several protected areas in southern and central Italy will help the populations to recover.

In Sicily, L. corsicanus is widespread and the populations are locally abundant. Furthermore since its official recognition as true species (1998), the local government has forbidden hare hunting on the island. However, hunting of this species was permitted during the 2004-2005 hunting season in Sicily. Therefore, in Sicily L. corsicanus does not appear to be threatened.

Finally we have no direct information on the status of the species in Corsica. The recent discovery of three specimens in Corsica implies that there are extant populations of L. corsicanus (Scalera and Angelici 2002). However, it is presumed that population numbers are low. Further studies are needed to ascertain its true status.

Globally, this species is classified as Vulnerable due to its variable conservation status across its geographic range. Utilizing information currently available regarding the historical range on continental Italy, we replicated this portion of the range using GIS to calculate the total area (Pierpaoli et al. 1999). The result showed that the historical range on continental Italy was approximately 79,700 km². Online sources gave an area of approximately 25,700 km² for Sicily. This provides a total area of 105,400 km² as the historical range for L. corsicanus. We inferred an approximate decline of 50% for the continental populations from the map provided in Pierpaoli (1999). From this we derived an overall decrease of only 37.8% for the species as a whole.
History:
1996 Not Evaluated

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Until the 1930s, L. corsicanus was distributed in south-central Italy (the northern limit being marked by Elba Island on the Tyrrhenian coast and the province of Foggia on the Adriatic coast) and Sicily. It was also present in Corsica, where it was introduced by man in historical times (maybe between the 14th and 17th centuries). The current distribution of L. corsicanus is still poorly known. In Sicily, the distribution seems to be continuous, whereas in the Italian Peninsula, populations are known only in Tuscany (in Grosseto province), Latium, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia (Gargano), Campania, Basilicata and Calabria. It has been recorded from sea level to 2,400 m a.s.l. on Mount Etna. Recently the presence of L. corsicanus has been rediscovered in Corsica, too (Scalera and Angelici 2002). As of 1984, L. corsicanus was thought to be possibly extinct in Corsica; however, one dead specimen was found in 2000 and two dead specimens were examined in 2001 (Scalera and Angelici 2002).
Countries:
Native:
Italy (Sicilia)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Populations of L. corsicanus in the Italian peninsula have a fragmented distribution and are sometimes in sympatry and syntopy with Lepus europaeus. Density estimates highlight low values in hunting areas (0.5 hares/km²) and higher in protected areas (11 hares/km²). In mainland Italy L. corsicanus is decreasing because of habitat degradation, hunting pressure, and probably, from competition with introduced L. europaeus. However, in Sicily, where there are not populations of L. europaeus, L. corsicanus is continuously distributed and locally abundant (protected areas: 10 hares/km²; hunting areas: 2 hares/km²). No data are actually available on abundance and distribution of L. corsicanus in Corsica (where L. europaeus is present too).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Information about the ecology of this species is still limited. However, it seems well adapted to the Mediterranean environment, although it has been recorded from sea level to 2,400 m a.s.l. on Mount Etna (Sicily). The preferred habitats are the Mediterranean maquis and the mosaic of clearings (also cultivated), bushy areas, and broad-leaved woods. Furthermore L. corsicanus inhabits also coastal dune habitat. When L. corsicanus is in sympatry with L. europaeus, the latter species tends to be more a habitat generalist, while L. corsicanus seems to inhabit almost only pastures and grasslands. In Sicily, the species inhabits a variety of natural and artificial habitats: open grassland, bushy pastures, cultivated areas, etc.

In terms of elevation, L. europaeus and L. corsicanus do not differ significantly when they live allopatrically. According to Angelici and Luiselli (in press), when the two species coexist in sympatry, L. corsicanus occurs at elevations significantly higher than L. europaeus. L. europaeus inhabits significantly higher elevations when it lives allopatrically than when it lives sympatrically, and L. corsicanus inhabits significantly higher elevations when it lives sympatrically than when it lives allopatrically. However, this ecological allocation is not shared by Trocchi and Riga who always directly observed, in sympatric condition, L. europaeus occupying the mountain grassland and L. corsicanus inhabiting the lower and warmer areas with thermophilous oak woods.

The diet of L. corsicanus, studied in Sicily, varies seasonally as the available vegetation changes. Monocotyledones, Cyperaceae and Juncaceae, are ingested year round, while Gramineae and Labiatae are consumed during spring and summer, respectively (De Battisti et al. 2004). Dicotyledones ingested year round by L. corsicanus are Leguminosae and Compositae (De Battisti et al. 2004).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Today Lepus corsicanus is legally protected in continental Italy because of the bad conservation status of its populations. However, the problematic discrimination in the field between L. corsicanus and L. europaeus (a game species) produces remarkable problems for effective protection. Since L. corsicanus was recognized as a true species (1998), hare hunting has been banned in Sicily. During the 2004-2005 hunting season, this ban was lifted allowing the hunting of all hares in Sicily. In Corsica it is a game species, since it is not distinguished from L. europaeus in the French hunting act.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats to L. corsicanus have been identified in the following aspects: fragmentation of the range, low or absent genetic flow between populations, low population density, habitat loss, introduction of L. europaeus in central and southern Italy (with interspecific competition and disease spread - L. corsicanus is fully susceptible to EBHS), competition with the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (mainly in Sicily, where this species is widely distributed), over-hunting, poaching and predation by foxes and feral dogs (both abundant and largely distributed in southern Italy). L. corsicanus is susceptible to accidental mortality due to difficulties distinguishing it from L. europaeus by hunters (Angelici and Luiselli 2001). Potential hybridization between L. europaeus and L. corsicanus could constitute a future threat to the species (Pierpaoli et al. 2003). On the major threat list "other" has been checked and identified as intraspecific genetic pollution.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The main conservation actions are:
-improve data of the distribution and status of the species in Italian peninsula and in Corsica
-conservation and improvement of natural populations
-habitat improvement
-minimizing risk factors
-planning specific oriented management both in protected areas and in hunting territories at a local level
-carrying out a number of enclosures for captive breeding and initiating behavioral study on L. corsicanus
-promote a public educational campaign to develop the awareness and understanding of L. corsicanus
-prepare a training program on biology and conservation of L. corsicanus for field biologists, conservationists, game keepers, and protected areas staff
-creation of a data bank on the species
-improvement of scientific research
-place the species on a suitable legal status for international legislation

Today L. corsicanus is legally protected in continental Italy because of its conservation status (primarily low population size). However, the problematic discrimination in the field between L. corsicanus and L. europaeus (a game species) produces remarkable problems for effective protection. Since L. corsicanus was recognized as a true species (1998), hare hunting has been banned in Sicily. During the 2004-2005 hunting season, this ban was lifted allowing the hunting of hares in Sicily. In Corsica it is considered a game species, in the French hunting act, since it cannot easily be distinguished from L. europaeus.

Lepus corsicanus can be found in many protected areas in Italy. The following is a partial list.
Continental Italy:
Parco Regionale della Maremma
Parco Regionale Monti Lucretili
Parco Regionale dell'Appennino "Monti Simbruini"
Parco Regionale del Cilento
Parco Nazionale della Sila
Parco Nazionale del Pollino
Parco Nazionale dell'Aspromonte

Sicily:
Parco Regionale dell'Etna
Parco Regionale dei Monti Nebrodi
Parco Regionale delle Madonie

Bibliography [top]

Alves, P. C., Ferrand, N., Suchentrunk, F. and Harris, D. J. 2003. Ancient introgression of Lepus timidus mtDNA into L. granatensis and L. europaeus in the Iberian Peninsula. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 27(1): 70-80.

Angelici, F. M. and Luiselli, L. 2001. Distribution and status of the Apennine hare Lepus corsicanus in continental Italy and Sicily. Oryx 35(3): 245-249.

de Battisti, R., Migliore, S., Masutti, L. and Trocchi, V. 2004. The diet of the Italian hare Lepus corsicanus on Etna Mountain, Sicily. Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Vairao, Portugal.

Ellerman, J. R. and Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. 1951. Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian Mammals 1758 to 1946. British Museum (Natural History), London, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Miller Jr., G. S. 1912. Catalogue of the mammals of Western Europe (Europe exclusive of Russia) in the collection of the British Museum. British Museum (Natural History), London, UK.

Mitchell-Jones, A. J., Amori, G., Bogdanowicz, W., Kryštufek, B., Reijnders, P. J. H., Spitzenberger, F., Stubbe, M., Thissen, J. B. M., Vohralik, V. and Zima, J. 1999. The Atlas of European Mammals. Academic Press, London, UK.

Palacios, F. 1996. Systematics of the indigenous hares of Italy traditionally identified as Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778 (Mammalia: Leporidae). Bonner Zoologische Beitraege 46(1-4): 59-91.

Palacios, F., Orueta, J. F. and Tapia, G. G. 1989. Taxonomic Review of the Lepus europaeus group in Italy and Corsica. Fifth International Theriologica Congress 1: 189-190. Rome, Italy.

Petter, F. 1961. Elements d'une revision des Lievres europeens et asiatiques du sous-genre Lepus. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 26: 30-40.

Pierpaoli, M., Riga, F., Trocchi, V. and Randi, E. 1999. Species distinction and evolutionary relationships of the Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus) as described by mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Molecular Ecology 8(11): 1805-1817.

Pierpaoli, M., Riga, F., Trocchi, V. and Randi, E. 2003. Hare populations in Europe: intra and interspecific analysis of mtDNA variation. Comptes Rendus Biologies 326: S80-S84.

Scalera, R. and Angelici, F. M. 2002. Rediscovery of the Apennine Hare Lepus corsicanus in Corsica. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali Bollettino (Turin) 20(1): 161-166.


Citation: Angelici, F.M., Randi, E., Riga, F. & Trocchi, V. 2008. Lepus corsicanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 August 2014.
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