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Mongoose after all are migrants

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The doctoral thesis of Tania Barros, defended at the University of Aveiro (UA) bought and genetically explains the origin of the expansion of this animal species in the Iberian Peninsula.

The scientific discovery of this young Portuguese scientist was highlighted and made the cover of the latest Mammalian Biology number because is has proven through a genetic study the origin of the expansion of the Egyptian mongoose, since it was public knowledge that this species was not brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs.

The occurrence of mongoose in the north of the country and not just in the South, as was common a few decades ago, has aroused the curiosity of animal ecology researchers on this species that exists in Africa, the Middle East and in Europe, exists only in the Iberian Peninsula. In this regard, the UA investigators proceeded to study the population genetics of the Egyptian mongoose in order to clarify, in evolutionary terms, the consequences of this expansion.

It was already known studies showing the North African origin of the Iberian mongoose and the species would not exist only from the period of Arab presence. But the work now published in Mammalian Biology, which received cover photo and was based on the doctoral thesis of Tania Barros, with guidance from a teacher and researcher Carlos Fonseca, allowed to relate the genetic patterns of the species with its registered expansion in the Iberian Peninsula.

The scientist demonstrated that the recent expansion of the Egyptian mongoose shaped own genetic patterns of the species in Portugal, revealing that the southern specimen population has a greater genetic diversity results these that are consistent with their presence over a longer time in the area of Portugal . The species remained for a long time in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, which allowed the emergence of new genetic information in this population, leading to increased diversity. In contrast, the populations of mongoose sampled in areas of the center and north of the country, which correspond to areas recently colonized by the species, have a lower genetic diversity, panorama consistent with the pattern of the known expansion of this population.

Crossing for decades of thousands of years

Additionally, the results from the genetic analysis showed that the dispersion of the species to areas in the center and north of the country came from various "subpopulations source" distributed by the south of the country, leading the researchers to conclude that probably there are several expansion of routes of the species, through which the Egyptian mongoose colonized the territories of central and north.
Based on previous studios this small mammal will have passed from North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula during a period of earth's history in which the distance between the two territories and the water level allow it. More specifically, during the Middle Pleistocene and the Late Pleistocene from 2.5 million to 11,500 years ago in the succeeding several glaciations.

The expansion in the peninsula, namely in Portugal, have been favored by climate change and the abandonment of agricultural activity in certain areas, with the consequent expansion of the scrub. The high rate of reproduction and a varied diet, although it is known that the rabbit has an important role in the diet, also contribute to the pattern of widening geographical distribution of species.


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