Journal article Open Access

Phylogenetics, genome diversity and origin of modern leopard, Panthera pardus

Uphyrkina, Olga; Johnson, Warren E.; Quigley, Howard; Miquelle, Dale; Marker, Laurie; Bush, Mitchel; O'Brien, Stephen J.

Leopards, Panthera pardus, are widely distributed across southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The extent and phylogeographic patterns of molecular genetic diversity were addressed in a survey of 77 leopards from known geographical locales representing 13 of the 27 classical trinomial subspecies. Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences (727 bp of NADH5 and control region) and 25 polymorphic microsatellite loci revealed abundant diversity that could be partitioned into a minimum of nine discrete populations, tentatively named here as revised subspecies: P. parduspardus,P. p. nimr, P. p. saxicolor, P. p. fusca, P. p. kotiya, P. p. delacouri, P. p. japonensis,P. p. orientalis and P. p. melas. However, because of limited sampling of African populations, this may be an underestimate of modern phylogeographic population structure. Combined phylogeographic and population diversity estimates support an origin for modern leopard lineages 470 000–825 000 years ago in Africa followed by their migration into and across Asia more recently (170 000–300 000 years ago). Recent demographic reductions likely have led to genetic impoverishment in P. p. orientalis and in the island subspecies P. p. kotiya.

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