Biometric characterisation and taxonomic considerations of european rabbit Oryctolagus Cuniculus (Linnaeus 1758) in Sicily (Italy)

M. Lo Valvo, A. La Scala, M. Scalisi

Abstract

In Sicilian Mediterranean ecosystems the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus is a keystone species, very important for popular small game species and for ecological reasons. However, its spread across the island seems to have decreased and fragmented in recent times, but until now no accurate population management has been carried out due to the lack of ethological, ecological and taxonomic knowledge. A biometric analysis of European rabbit specimens from Sicily to widen current taxonomic knowledge was performed. In this paper, 7 body variables and 23 cranial variables of 166 and 120 individuals, respectively, were examined. Thereafter, the results were compared with biometric data from other European populations.
The comparison showed that the body size and skull measurement in Sicilian specimens of European rabbit seem to be quite distinct from those given in the literature on rabbit in south-west Spain, whose populations were assigned to Oryctolagus cuniculus algirus subspecies, whereas it was particularly close to the average size of populations in northern Spain and southern France, assigned to Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus. Moreover, the Sicilian taxon was not correlated with Bergmann’s rule, showing characteristics that could be the result of its introduction, population management or insularity. Biomolecular analyses will be necessary to definitely clarify the taxonomy of European rabbit in Sicily.


Keywords

European rabbit; Oryctolagus cuniculus; Sicily; biometry; taxonomy

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References

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