The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment
Modern felid species descend from relatively recent (<11 million years ago) divergence and speciation events that produced successful predatory carnivores worldwide but that have confounded taxonomic classifications. A highly resolved molecular phylogeny with divergence dates for all living cat species, derived from autosomal, X-linked, Y-linked, and mitochondrial gene segments (22,789 base pairs) and 16 fossil calibrations define eight principal lineages produced through at least 10 intercontinental migrations facilitated by sea-level fluctuations. A ghost lineage analysis indicates that available felid fossils underestimate (i.e., unrepresented basal branch length) first occurrence by an average of 76%, revealing a low representation of felid lineages in paleontological remains. The phylogenetic performance of distinct gene classes showed that Y-chromosome segments are appreciably more informative than mitochondrial DNA, X-linked, or autosomal genes in resolving the rapid Felidae species radiation.