Saremi, N. F., Supple, M. A., Byrne, A., Cahill, J. A., Coutinho, L. L., Dalén, L., Figueiró, H. V., Johnson, W. E., Milne, H. J., O’Brien, S. J., O’Connell, B., Onorato, D. P., Riley, S. P. D., Sikich, J. A., Stahler, D. R., Villela, P. M. S., Vollmers, C., Wayne, R. K., Eizirik, E., … Shapiro, B. (2019). Puma genomes from North and South America provide insights into the genomic consequences of inbreeding. Nature Communications, 10(1), 4769.
Pumas are the most widely distributed felid in the Western Hemisphere. Increasingly, however, human persecution and habitat loss are isolating puma populations. To explore the genomic consequences of this isolation, we assemble a draft puma genome and a geographically broad panel of resequenced individuals. We estimate that the lineage leading to present-day North American pumas diverged from South American lineages 300–100 thousand years ago. We find signatures of close inbreeding in geographically isolated North American populations, but also that tracts of homozygosity are rarely shared among these populations, suggesting that assisted gene flow would restore local genetic diversity. The genome of a Florida panther descended from translocated Central American individuals has long tracts of homozygosity despite recent outbreeding. This suggests that while translocations may introduce diversity, sustaining diversity in small and isolated populations will require either repeated translocations or restoration of landscape connectivity. Our approach provides a framework for genome-wide analyses that can be applied to the management of similarly small and isolated populations.