The Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber L., suffered extreme demographic reduction through overhunting until the end of the 19th century. However, active protection measures have led to a powerful recovery in range and population numbers. The vast majority of beavers (83%) now occur in the former Soviet Union. The present study investigates the geographic distribution of genetic variation of C. fiber in this eastern part of the species range (former Soviet Union and Mongolia), with special emphasis on small isolated populations of the Asian subspecies C. fiber pohlei, C. fiber tuvinicus, and C. fiber birulai. The analysis yielded 12 different haplotypes, all of which were population specific. Results indicate that C. fiber displays great population structuration (FST = 0.985), coupled with an overall low level of genetic divergence (mean number of pairwise differences 7.262 ± 3.435). In particular, the autochthonous populations in Mongolia or Siberia do not appear significantly different from samples from the European part of Russia, despite the great geographical distance. C. f. birulai appears as the most divergent member, a fact that could result from its longer genetic isolation in an enclosed watershed. Examination of our data suggests a single recent origin of the present beaver population in eastern Europe and Asia.
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