D. Fadakar et al. / Mammalian Biology 95 (2019) 181-187
Iran with its highly structured landscape, such as the Zagros Mountain Range that stretches across the country from East to West, is home to at least three different gazelle species. For some of them, intraspecific genetic patterning is to be expected, as different populations show different pelage coloration or body sizes, e.g., in the Persian gazelle (G. subgutturosa). This species is especially interesting due to its taxonomic history, as it was considered to be conspecific with sand gazelle (G. marica) from Arabia until recently. G. marica and G. subgutturosa were even thought to intergrade/hybridize in a broad region from the Euphrates/Tigris basin to the Zagros Mountains. This area is inhabited by small gazelles that seem to be intermediate in size and other characters between the two species. However, so far all molecular studies showed that the mitochondrial haplotypes of gazelles in this supposed hybrid zone only belong to G. subgutturosa. We collected samples from four populations of Persian gazelles in Iran, in the eastern part of the Zagros Mountains. In two of these locations, we found mitochondrial haplotypes of G. marica, including one potentially pure natural population in Bushehr Province, and one reintroduced mixed population with G. marica and G. subgutturosa haplotypes in Khuzestan Province. It might therefore be possible that G. marica, which is phenomically most similar to G. subgutturosa, exits in Iran as a fourth gazelle species besides G. subgutturosa, G. bennettii, and G. arabica. We strongly recommend that future conservation management decisions, especially animal translocations, should be based on genetic analyses of the populations under consideration.