Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 296-305

First online:

Phylogenetic reconstruction of South American felids defined by protein electrophoresis

  • J. Pecon SlatteryAffiliated withLaboratory of Viral Carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute
  • , W.E. JohnsonAffiliated withProgram Resources Inc./Dyncorp
  • , D. GoldmanAffiliated withNational Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Laboratory of Clinical Studies
  • , S.J. O'BrienAffiliated withLaboratory of Viral Carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute

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Phylogenetic associations among six closely related South American felid species were defined by changes in protein-encoding gene loci. We analyzed proteins isolated from skin fibroblasts using two-dimensional electrophoresis and allozymes extracted from blood cells. Genotypes were determined for multiple individuals of ocelot, margay, tigrina, Geoffroy's cat, kodkod, and pampas cat at 548 loci resolved by two-dimensional electrophoresis and 44 allozyme loci. Phenograms were constructed using the methods of Fitch-Margoliash and neighbor-joining on a matrix of Nei's unbiased genetic distances for all pairs of species. Results of a relative-rate test indicate changes in two-dimensional electrophoresis data are constant among all South American felids with respect to a hyena outgroup. Allelic frequencies were transformed to discrete character states for maximum parsimony analysis. Phylogenetic reconstruction indicates a major split occurred approximately 5–6 million years ago, leading to three groups within the ocelot lineage. The earliest divergence led to Leopardus tigrina, followed by a split between an ancestor of an unresolved trichotomy of three species (Oncifelis guigna, O. geoffroyi, and Lynchaduris colocolo) and a recent common ancestor of Leopardus pardalis and L. wiedii. The results suggest that modern South American felids are monophyletic and evolved rapidly after the formation of the Panama land bridge between North and South America.

Key words

Phylogeny Felidae Protein electrophoresis Molecular evolution