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J Hered. 2000 May-Jun;91(3):186-97.

Genomic ancestry of the American puma (Puma concolor).

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  • 1Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute, Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, MD 21702-1201, USA.


Puma concolor, a large American cat species, occupies the most extensive range of any New World terrestrial mammal, spanning 110 degrees of latitude from the Canadian Yukon to the Straits of Magellan. Until the recent Holocene, pumas coexisted with a diverse array of carnivores including the American lion (Panthera atrox), the North American cheetah (Miracynonyx trumani), and the saber toothed tiger (Smilodon fatalis). Genomic DNA specimens from 315 pumas of specified geographic origin (261 contemporary and 54 museum specimens) were collected for molecular genetic and phylogenetic analyses of three mitochondrial gene sequences (16S rRNA, ATPase-8, and NADH-5) plus composite microsatellite genotypes (10 feline loci). Six phylogeographic groupings or subspecies were resolved, and the entire North American population (186 individuals from 15 previously named subspecies) was genetically homogeneous in overall variation relative to central and South American populations. The marked uniformity of mtDNA and a reduction in microsatellite allele size expansion indicates that North American pumas derive from a recent (late Pleistocene circa 10,000 years ago) replacement and recolonization by a small number of founders who themselves originated from a centrum of puma genetic diversity in eastern South America 200,000-300,000 years ago. The recolonization of North American pumas was coincident with a massive late Pleistocene extinction event that eliminated 80% of large vertebrates in North America and may have extirpated pumas from that continent as well.

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