Genetic characterization and implications for conservation of the last autochthonous Mouflon population in Europe

Valentina Satta, Paolo Mereu, Mario Barbato, Monica Pirastru, Giovanni Bassu, Laura Manca, Salvatore Naitana, Giovanni Giuseppe Leoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Population genetic studies provide accurate information on population structure, connectivity, and hybridization. These are key elements to identify units for conservation and define wildlife management strategies aimed to maintain and restore biodiversity. The Mediterranean island of Sardinia hosts one of the last autochthonous mouflon populations, descending from the wild Neolithic ancestor. The first mouflon arrived in Sardinia ~ 7000 years ago and thrived across the island until the twentieth century, when anthropogenic factors led to population fragmentation. We analysed the three main allopatric Sardinian mouflon sub-populations, namely: the native sub-populations of Montes Forest and Mount Tonneri, and the reintroduced sub-population of Mount Lerno. We investigated the spatial genetic structure of the Sardinian mouflon based on the parallel analysis of 14 highly polymorphic microsatellite loci and mitochondrial D-loop sequences. The Montes Forest sub-population was found to harbour the ancestral haplotype in the phylogeny of European mouflon. We detected high levels of relatedness in all the sub-populations and a mitochondrial signature of hybridization between the Mount Lerno sub-population and domestic sheep. Our findings provide useful insights to protect such an invaluable genetic heritage from the risk of genetic depletion by promoting controlled inter-population exchange and drawing informed repopulation plans sourcing from genetically pure mouflon stocks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • mouflon


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