Collection specimens provide valuable and often overlooked biological material that enables addressing relevant, long-unanswered questions in conservation biology, historical biogeography, and other research fields. Here, we use preserved specimens to analyze the historical distribution of the black francolin (Francolinus francolinus, Phasianidae), a case that has recently aroused the interest of archeozoologists and evolutionary biologists. The black francolin currently ranges from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, but, at least since the Middle Ages, it also had a circum-Mediterranean distribution. The species could have persisted in Greece and the Maghreb until the 19th century, even though this possibility had been questioned due to the absence of museum specimens and scant literary evidence. Nevertheless, we identified four 200-year-old stuffed black francolins—presumably the only ones still existing—from these areas and sequenced their mitochondrial DNA control region. Based on the comparison with conspecifics (n = 396) spanning the entirety of the historic and current species range, we found that the new samples pertain to previously identified genetic groups from either the Near East or the Indian subcontinent. While disproving the former occurrence of an allegedly native westernmost subspecies, these results point toward the role of the Crown of Aragon in the circum-Mediterranean expansion of the black francolin, including the Maghreb and Greece. Genetic evidence hints at the long-distance transport of these birds along the Silk Road, probably to be traded in the commerce centers of the Eastern Mediterranean

Introduced and extinct: neglected archival specimens shed new light on the historical biogeography of an iconic avian species in the Mediterranean

Forcina, Giovanni
Primo
;
Guerrini, Monica
Penultimo
;
Barbanera, Filippo
Ultimo
2024-01-01

Abstract

Collection specimens provide valuable and often overlooked biological material that enables addressing relevant, long-unanswered questions in conservation biology, historical biogeography, and other research fields. Here, we use preserved specimens to analyze the historical distribution of the black francolin (Francolinus francolinus, Phasianidae), a case that has recently aroused the interest of archeozoologists and evolutionary biologists. The black francolin currently ranges from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, but, at least since the Middle Ages, it also had a circum-Mediterranean distribution. The species could have persisted in Greece and the Maghreb until the 19th century, even though this possibility had been questioned due to the absence of museum specimens and scant literary evidence. Nevertheless, we identified four 200-year-old stuffed black francolins—presumably the only ones still existing—from these areas and sequenced their mitochondrial DNA control region. Based on the comparison with conspecifics (n = 396) spanning the entirety of the historic and current species range, we found that the new samples pertain to previously identified genetic groups from either the Near East or the Indian subcontinent. While disproving the former occurrence of an allegedly native westernmost subspecies, these results point toward the role of the Crown of Aragon in the circum-Mediterranean expansion of the black francolin, including the Maghreb and Greece. Genetic evidence hints at the long-distance transport of these birds along the Silk Road, probably to be traded in the commerce centers of the Eastern Mediterranean
2024
Forcina, Giovanni; Clavero, Miguel; Meister, Marie; Barilaro, Christina; Guerrini, Monica; Barbanera, Filippo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/1219747
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