, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 353-366

Genetic structure of mountain lion (Puma concolor ) populations in California

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Analysis of 12 microsatellite loci from431 mountain lions (Puma concolor)revealed distinct genetic subdivision that wasassociated with geographic barriers andisolation by distance in California. Levels ofgenetic variation differed among geographicregions, and mountain lions that inhabitedcoastal areas exhibited less heterozygositythan those sampled inland. The San FranciscoBay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, theCentral Valley, and the Los Angeles Basinappeared to be substantial barriers to geneflow, and allele frequencies of populationsseparated by those features differedsubstantially. A partial barrier to gene flowappeared to exist along the crest of the SierraNevada. Estimated gene flow was high amongmountain lions inhabiting the Modoc Plateau,the western Sierra Nevada, and northern sectionof the eastern Sierra Nevada. SouthernCalifornia mountain lion populations mayfunction as a metapopulation; however, humandevelopments threaten to eliminate habitat andmovement corridors. While north-south geneflow along the western Sierra Nevada wasestimated to be very high, projected loss andfragmentation of foothill habitat may reducegene flow and subdivide populations. Preservation of existing movement corridorsamong regions could prevent population declinesand loss of genetic variation. This studyshows that mountain lion management andconservation efforts should be individualizedaccording to region and incorporatelandscape-level considerations to protecthabitat connectivity.