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Distribution of mtDNA haplotypes (cyt b) of Emys orbicularis in France and implications for postglacial recolonization

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The European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis, is a wide ranging species, distributed from Northwest Africa over a large part of Europe and Asia Minor to the Caspian and Aral Seas. For 106 pond turtles from France mtDNA sequence variation has been assessed, using a 1031 bp portion of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Three of nine haploclades currently known from the entire species' range were found in France. One clade (II) is represented with four very similar haplotypes, differing by one mutation, and the two other clades (V, VI) are represented with one haplotype each. A syntopic occurrence of clades II and V is reported for the first time for the Camargue. Besides, clade II occurs in the French regions Aquitaine, Centre-Val de Loire, and Rhône-Alpes. Outside of France, it is found mainly in the catchment areas of the Danube and Oder rivers and in the Balkans. Haploclade V, which is also known from the Apennine peninsula, Sardinia, and the northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, is restricted in France to Corsica and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. A single individual bearing a haplotype of an Iberian and North African clade (VI) was found in Aquitaine near Pau. This could indicate gene flow between the Iberian peninsula and West France, if the specimen is native. The distribution of the distinct haploclades in France probably reflects Holocene range expansions, especially of haploclade II turtles. In the postglacial, haploclade II terrapins arrived from the east and spread over the Rhône corridor to the Mediterranean coast. In the southern Rhône area they met and hybridized with haploclade V turtles. Further research is needed to clarify whether this hybridization is a locally restricted phenomenon.


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