Historical biogeography of the leopard (Panthera pardus) and its extinct Eurasian populations

Paijmans, J.L.A., Barlow, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-5532-9458, Förster, D.W., Henneberger, K., Meyer, M., Nickel, B., Nagel, D., Worsøe Havmøller, R., Baryshnikov, G.F., Joger, U., Rosendahl, W. and Hofreiter, M., 2018. Historical biogeography of the leopard (Panthera pardus) and its extinct Eurasian populations. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 18: 156 (2018). ISSN 1471-2148

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Abstract

Background: Resolving the historical biogeography of the leopard (Panthera pardus) is a complex issue, because patterns inferred from fossils and from molecular data lack congruence. Fossil evidence supports an African origin, and suggests that leopards were already present in Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene. Analysis of DNA sequences however, suggests a more recent, Middle Pleistocene shared ancestry of Asian and African leopards. These contrasting patterns led researchers to propose a two-stage hypothesis of leopard dispersal out of Africa: an initial Early Pleistocene colonisation of Asia and a subsequent replacement by a second colonisation wave during the Middle Pleistocene. The status of Late Pleistocene European leopards within this scenario is unclear: were these populations remnants of the first dispersal, or do the last surviving European leopards share more recent ancestry with their African counterparts?

Results: In this study, we generate and analyse mitogenome sequences from historical samples that span the entire modern leopard distribution, as well as from Late Pleistocene remains. We find a deep bifurcation between African and Eurasian mitochondrial lineages (~ 710 Ka), with the European ancient samples as sister to all Asian lineages (~ 483 Ka). The modern and historical mainland Asian lineages share a relatively recent common ancestor (~ 122 Ka), and we find one Javan sample nested within these.

Conclusions: The phylogenetic placement of the ancient European leopard as sister group to Asian leopards suggests that these populations originate from the same out-of-Africa dispersal which founded the Asian lineages. The coalescence time found for the mitochondrial lineages aligns well with the earliest undisputed fossils in Eurasia, and thus encourages a re-evaluation of the identification of the much older putative leopard fossils from the region. The relatively recent ancestry of all mainland Asian leopard lineages suggests that these populations underwent a severe population bottleneck during the Pleistocene. Finally, although only based on a single sample, the unexpected phylogenetic placement of the Javan leopard could be interpreted as evidence for exchange of mitochondrial lineages between Java and mainland Asia, calling for further investigation into the evolutionary history of this subspecies.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: BMC Evolutionary Biology
Creators: Paijmans, J.L.A., Barlow, A., Förster, D.W., Henneberger, K., Meyer, M., Nickel, B., Nagel, D., Worsøe Havmøller, R., Baryshnikov, G.F., Joger, U., Rosendahl, W. and Hofreiter, M.
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2018
Volume: 18
ISSN: 1471-2148
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1186/s12862-018-1268-0DOI
1238752Other
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Depositing User: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 21 Nov 2019 16:00
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2019 16:00
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/38433

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