ESR 16:283-294 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00402

Population structure and conservation of a high-altitude specialist, the Andean cat Leopardus jacobita

E. Daniel Cossíos1,*, R. Susan Walker2, Mauro Lucherini3, Manuel Ruiz-García4, Bernard Angers

1Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva. 1211, Genève 4, Switzerland
2Wildlife Conservation Society, Junín de los Andes, 8371 Neuquén, Argentina
3GECM, Universidad Nacional del Sur-CONICET, 8000 Bahía Blanca, Argentina
4Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cra 7A No 43-82, Bogotá DC, Colombia

ABSTRACT: The Andean cat Leopardus jacobita is considered one of the rarest felids in the world, although it has a large latitudinal distribution. Due to its preference for upland habitats, it has been suggested that this cat could have naturally fragmented populations. Despite great concern regarding the conservation status of this species, very little is known about its population structure, which is crucial information for appropriate management plans. In this study, we investigated its genetic diversity, population structure and evolutionary history by analysing 459 base pairs of the mitochondrial DNA control region, 789 base pairs of the NADH-5, ATP-8 and 16S mitochondrial genes, and 11 nuclear microsatellites, with the aim of identifying conservation units. The analyses were made on 30 skins and 65 recently collected faecal samples from throughout the known range of the species. These analyses revealed a total of 56 individuals. Our results confirm that Andean cat populations harbour extremely low mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity. The population structure of this species suggests the existence of 2 evolutionarily significant units (ESUs), with a latitudinal separation between 26 and 35°S. In addition, 2 genetically distinct groups within the northern ESU could be considered separate management units.


KEY WORDS: Leopardus jacobita · Conservation genetics · Evolutionarily significant units · ESUs · Genetic structure . Microsatellites · Mitochondrial DNA · Phylogeography · South America


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Cite this article as: Cossíos ED, Walker RS, Lucherini M, Ruiz-García M, Angers B (2012) Population structure and conservation of a high-altitude specialist, the Andean cat Leopardus jacobita. Endang Species Res 16:283-294. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00402

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