Hedgehogs from genus Erinaceus went through the typical retractions of area of distribution during the Quaternary climate oscillations. After the last ice age, European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) and northern white-breasted hedgehogs (Erinaceus roumanicus) expanded from their Mediterranean refugia and created broad zone of sympatry within Central Europe. Although hedgehogs are well-known examples of postglacial recolonisation, the specific processes that shape their population structures have not been examined by detailed sampling and genome-wide markers. In this study, we combine information gained from classical population genetics (D-loop sequences and microsatellites) with the methods of genomics (SNPs via RADSeq). The most pronounced pattern of population structure of the northern white-breasted hedgehogs involved differentiation of the insular populations in the Mediterranean Sea and population within the secondary contact zone. Rate of recent inter-species hybridization was confirmed to be very low in this area. Recent population in post-refugial area related to Balkan Peninsula shows a complex pattern with pronounced subpopulations located mainly in the Pannonian Basin and at the Adriatic and Pontic coasts. Detailed analyses indicate that parapatry and peripatry may not be the only factors that limit range expansion, but also strong microevolutionary forces that may change the genetic structure of the species. Population differentiation at Balkan Peninsula and adjacent regions could be ascribed to diversification in steppe/forest biomes and complicated geomorphology, including pronounced geographic barriers as Carpathians.
The project was funded by the GAUK 702214 and by IGA CULS 20165015.