Genetic variation in the European rabbit and rabbit flea in the British Isles

  • David Eccles

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Thirty-four sites were sampled for rabbit tissue, for use in starch gel electrophoresis. Thirty-two loci were identified, five of which were polymorphic. Of these two (Sod-1 and Mpi-2) were widely polymorphic, the other three (Icd-2, Agp-1 and Mae-1) occurring at one site each. Genetic distances were consequently low, being no greater than 0.062 between any two individuals. However FST and FIS values of 0.415 and 0.421 respectively indicated the rabbit population as a whole is subdivided, with individual populations being genetically distinct.

    Gene flow calculations indicated only 1 rabbit every 3 years were moving between populations studied, underlining the degree of isolation of these populations.

    Nineteen of the thirty-four sites were analysed further using the RAPD method of DNA analysis. Of 66 fragments revealed, 6 were found to be polymorphic. Genetic distances ranged from 0 to 0.04 between populations. However parsimony analysis revealed individuals from the same population grouping together, indicating subdivision within the rabbit population as a whole.

    RAPD analysis of 4 flea populations gave 4 polymorphic fragments from 19 discovered. This resulted in larger genetic distances, averaging 0.088 between subpopulations. However parsimony analysis indicated the populations were less genetically distinct than analysis of rabbit tissue indicated. Consequently, this indicated more rabbit movement than was suggested from the rabbit data.

    It was suggested that rabbit movement over the geographic scale of the study is low. However, the flea data indicates that some movement may occur, and it was hypothesized that this may occur in the form of single rabbit movements (perhaps as a result of expulsions of young males from colonies).

    In terms of rabbit control measures, this indicates that localized control methods will be effective without fear of large scale migrations into the cleared area.
    Date of AwardDec 1996
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorColin Fleming (Supervisor) & Alan Bell (Supervisor)

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