Genetic variability, one of the main factors that guarantees species persistence, and species’ conservation status are generally evaluated with indices calculated at the present time. Natural history collections might help compare historical and current genetic diversity so to identify major trends. Here we analysed museum specimens of the lizard Zootoca vivipara carniolica, with a specific and stringent protocol for degraded DNA, in order to contrast its past and current genetic variability, using fragments of one mitochondrial DNA gene. Part of the distributional range of Z. v. carniolica (Po Plain, Italy), heavily impacted by human activities, was investigated. We found two previously unknown haplotypes in populations that are extinct today, suggesting the loss of these haplotypes and thus an overall shrinking of genetic variability. We argue that these results, together with the increasing threats posed by climate and land use changes, suggest that specific conservation measures for the persistence of Z. v. carniolica in Northern Italian lowlands have to be considered.
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