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J Hered. 2004 Jan-Feb;95(1):19-28.

Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analysis of Iberian lynx populations.

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  • 1Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute-FCRDC, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA.


The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), one of the world's most endangered cat species, is vulnerable due to habitat loss, increased fragmentation of populations, and precipitous demographic reductions. An understanding of Iberian lynx evolutionary history is necessary to develop rational management plans for the species. Our objectives were to assess Iberian lynx genetic diversity at three evolutionary timescales. First we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation to position the Iberian lynx relative to other species of the genus LYNX: We then assessed the pattern of mtDNA variation of isolated populations across the Iberian Peninsula. Finally we estimated levels of gene flow between two of the most important remaining lynx populations (DoƱana National Park and the Sierra Morena Mountains) and characterized the extent of microsatellite locus variation in these populations. Phylogenetic analyses of 1613 bp of mtDNA sequence variation supports the hypothesis that the Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, and Canadian lynx diverged within a short time period around 1.53-1.68 million years ago, and that the Iberian lynx and Eurasian lynx are sister taxa. Relative to most other felid species, genetic variation in mtDNA genes and nuclear microsatellites were reduced in Iberian lynx, suggesting that they experienced a fairly severe demographic bottleneck. In addition, the effects of more recent reductions in gene flow and population size are being manifested in local patterns of molecular genetic variation. These data, combined with recent studies modeling the viability of Iberian lynx populations, should provide greater urgency for the development and implementation of rational in situ and ex situ conservation plans.

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