In this study, we examined the annual diet composition of Lepus corsicanus in two different sites within a southern Italy Regional Park. Vegetation of site 1 was composed of a mixed scrub forest (Viburno–Quercetum ilicis s.l.), a ripisilva (Roso sempervirentis–Populetum nigrae), some thermophilous scrubs (Pruno–Rhamnetalia alaterni), and a Pinus halepensis reforested area. Site 2 comprised a mixedoak forest (Centaureo–Quercetum pubescentis s.l.) with meadows and arable lands. Micro-histological analysis of faecal samples revealed that hares utilised 70 different species of plants during the year, indicating the capability of the Apennine hare of exploiting a wide variety of vegetation. Herbaceous plants (Hemicryptophytes, particularly graminoid grasses, and Geophytes) predominated in the diet. Brachypodium sylvaticum (9.44 %) and Allium subhirsutum (8.28 %) were the major contributors to the diet in sites 2 and 1, respectively. Other taxa found most often in the diet were Trifolium pratense (site 1: 8.19 %; site 2: 5.80 %) and Prunus spinosa (site 1: 7.03 %; site 2: 4.10 %). Significant differences were found between sites in terms of diet richness, diversity, and evenness. Nevertheless, both the similarity indices (Morisita–Horn: 0.79; Sørensen: 0.87) showed that the food composition of the hare’s diet was broadly the same in both sites. Some qualitative and quantitative differences between sites were due to the availability or consumption of some plant species and evidenced that the Apennine hare can modify its trophic niche in order to adapt its dietary requirements to the availability of food.
Key words Lepus corsicanus, Diet, Faecal analysis, Micro-histological techniques.
P. Freschi, S. Fascetti, M. Musto, E. Mallia,A. C. Blasi, C. Cosentino, R. Paolino (2014). Diet of the Apennine hare in a southern Italy Regional Park. European Journal of Wildlife Research DOI 10.1007/s10344-014-0799-y.