Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of Lepus in Eastern Asia based on mitochondrial DNA sequences.Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2005 Oct; 37(1):45-61.MP
In spite of several classification attempts among taxa of the genus Lepus, phylogenetic relationships still remain poorly understood. Here, we present molecular genetic evidence that may resolve some of the current incongruities in the phylogeny of the leporids. The complete mitochondrial cytb, 12S genes, and parts of ND4 and control region fragments were sequenced to examine phylogenetic relationships among Chinese hare taxa and other leporids throughout the World using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian phylogenetic reconstruction approaches. Using reconstructed phylogenies, we observed that the Chinese hare is not a single monophyletic group as originally thought. Instead, the data infers that the genus Lepus is monophyletic with three unique species groups: North American, Eurasian, and African. Ancestral area analysis indicated that ancestral Lepus arose in North America and then dispersed into Eurasia via the Bering Land Bridge eventually extending to Africa. Brooks Parsimony analysis showed that dispersal events followed by subsequent speciation have occurred in other geographic areas as well and resulted in the rapid radiation and speciation of Lepus. A Bayesian relaxed molecular clock approach based on the continuous autocorrelation of evolutionary rates along branches estimated the divergence time between the three major groups within Lepus. The genus appears to have arisen approximately 10.76 MYA (+/-0.86 MYA), with most speciation events occurring during the Pliocene epoch (5.65+/-1.15 MYA approximately 1.12 +/- 0.47 MYA).