Mitogenomics of the jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi, Felidae, Carnivora): Disagreement between morphological subspecies and molecular data

Manuel Ruiz-García, Myreya Pinedo-Castro, Joseph Mark Shostell

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    4 Scopus citations


    We analyzed 80 mitogenomes of the elusive jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi, Felidae, Carnivora), representing seven of the eight putative morphological subspecies traditionally described. The mitochondrial genetic diversity levels were very high in this cat species and therefore similar to other Neotropical cats. Nonetheless, the number of significantly different molecular clusters did not align well with putative morphological subspecies. We detected three possible molecular subspecies: P. y. yagouaroundi (wide distribution in Central and South America), P. y. melantho (Central Andean, and their inter-valleys, Peruvian area) and P. y. eyra (Paraguay and northern Argentina). There were also small geographical clusters with no correspondence with the morphological subspecies, especially in Costa Rica, northern and eastern Colombia, and Pacific trans-Andean Colombia and Ecuador. Thus, the number of molecular subspecies in jaguarundi could be less than the number defined morphologically. However, well-differentiated mitochondrial lineages could exist in the area of the putative P. y. panamensis and correspond to undescribed subspecies. The temporal split of the ancestors of the puma and jaguarundi and the initial mitochondrial diversification within the jaguarundi occurred during the late Pliocene, but the major fraction of haplotype proliferation happened during the Pleistocene. All the procedures we used detected a strong population expansion for the jaguarundi during the Günz-Mindel interglacial period of the Pleistocene. The spatial genetic analyses showed that the isolation-by-distance patterns are not well developed in this species. In contrast, we detected a very significant circular cline with spatial autocorrelation. Therefore, from a molecular perspective some of the individuals far removed from each other geographically are also very similar. This new information may be very helpful to conservation ecologists and managers of jaguarundi habitats as we continue to improve our understanding of the evolutionary history of this cat species.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)153-168
    Number of pages16
    JournalMammalian Biology
    StatePublished - Nov 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Manuel Ruiz-García thanks Colciencias (Grant 1203-09-11239 ), Fondo para la Accion Ambiental (US-Aid) (Grant 120108-E0102141 ) and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (project named: Estructura genética y filogeografía de cinco especies de felinos neotropicales mediante microsatélites y secuencias de genes mitocondriales, Grant 12010TL0401200 ) for financial assistance. Special thanks to Dr. Diana Álvarez, Luisa Fernanda Castellanos-Mora, Pablo Escobar-Armel, Armando Castellanos and Nicolás Lichilín to help in obtaining samples of jaguarundis throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia. Also, thanks go to Dr. Francois Catzeflis (Montpellier, France) for donation of samples of jaguarundis from French Guiana as well as to Dr. Esteban Payán (Panthera, Bogotá, Colombia) for providing samples from the Cesar Department (Colombia). Thanks also go to the Ministry of Environment, Consejo Nacional del Ambiente and the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales in Peru, to the Colección Boliviana de Fauna (Dr. Julieta Vargas) and to CITES in Bolivia and to the Ministerio del Ambiente in Coca (Ecuador) for their role in facilitating the obtainment of the collection permits in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Also, thanks to Ministries of the Environment in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela and Argentina for their roles in obtaining permissions in these countries. Additional thanks to the many people of the diverse Amerindian tribes in Peru (Bora, Ocaina, Shipigo-Comibo, Capanahua, Angoteros, Orejón, Cocama, Kishuarana, and Alamas), Colombia (Jaguas, Ticunas, Huitoto, Cocama, Tucano, Nonuya, Yuri, Yucuna, Curripacos, and Desano), and Ecuador (Kichwa, Huaorani, Shuar, and Achuar) for their help in obtaining jaguarundi samples.


    • Jaguarundi
    • Latin America
    • Mitogenomics
    • Phylogeography
    • Spatial genetic structure
    • Subspecies

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