Santos, A. da S., Trigo, T. C., Oliveira, T. G., Silveira, L., & Eizirik, E. (2018). Phylogeographic analyses of the pampas cat (Leopardus colocola; Carnivora, Felidae) reveal a complex demographic history. Genetics and Molecular Biology, 41, 273–287.
The pampas cat is a small felid that occurs in open habitats throughout much of South America. Previous studies have revealed intriguing patterns of morphological differentiation and genetic structure among its populations, as well as molecular evidence for hybridization with the closely related L. tigrinus. Here we report phylogeographic analyses encompassing most of its distribution (focusing particularly on Brazilian specimens, which had been poorly sampled in previous studies), using a novel dataset comprising 2,143 bp of the mitogenome, along with previously reported mtDNA sequences. Our data revealed strong population strutucture and supported a west-to-east colonization process in this species’ history. We detected two population expansion events, one older (ca. 200 thousand years ago [kya]) in western South America and another more recent (ca. 60-50 kya) in eastern areas, coinciding with the expansion of savanna environments in Brazil. Analyses including L. tigrinus ndividuals bearing introgressed mtDNA from L. colocola showed a complete lack of shared haplotypes between species, indicating that their hybridization was ancient. Finally, we observed a close relationship between Brazilian/Uruguayan L. colocola haplotypes and those sampled in L. tigrinus, indicating that their hybridization was likely related to the demographic expansion of L. Colocola into eastern South America.