Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1093–1108 | Cite as

Genetic differences in the response to landscape fragmentation by a habitat generalist, the bobcat, and a habitat specialist, the ocelot

  • Jan E. JaneckaEmail author
  • Michael E. Tewes
  • Imogene A. Davis
  • Aaron M. Haines
  • Arturo Caso
  • Terry L. Blankenship
  • Rodney L. Honeycutt
Research Article


The ecology of a species strongly influences genetic variation and population structure. This interaction has important conservation implications because taxa with low dispersal capability and inability to use different habitats are more susceptible to anthropogenic stressors. Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis albescens) and bobcats (Lynx rufus texensis) are sympatric in Texas and northeastern Mexico; however, their ecology and conservation status are markedly different. We used 10 microsatellite loci and a 397-bp segment of the mitochondrial control region to examine how historical and ecological differences in these two species have influenced current patterns of genetic diversity in a landscape heavily altered by anthropogenic activities. Substantially higher genetic diversity (heterozygosity and haplotype diversity) and population connectivity was observed for bobcats in comparison to ocelots. The level of divergence among proximate ocelot populations (<30 km) was greater than between bobcat populations separated by >100 km. Ocelot populations in the US have never recovered from reductions experienced during the twentieth century, and their low genetic variation and substantial isolation are exacerbated by strong preference for dense native thornshrub and avoidance of open habitat. In contrast, despite continued legal harvesting and frequent road-related mortality, bobcats have maintained wide distribution, high abundance, and population connectivity. Our study illustrates that sympatric species with a similar niche can still have sufficient ecological differences to alter their response to anthropogenic change. Sensitive species, such as the ocelot, require additional conservation actions to sustain populations. Ecological differences among species occupying a similar guild are important to consider when developing conservation plans.


Felidae Microsatellites Population structure Dispersal Ecology 



We thank the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation (to TLB and JEJ), Tim and Karen Hixon Foundation (to MET), Rachel and Ben Vaughan Foundation (to MET), James R. Dougherty Foundation (to MET), Karen and Phil Hunke (to MET), and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Grant E-77-R (to JEJ & RLH) for funding this project. This article represents publication number 15-114 of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, 001 of the East Wildlife Foundation, and 714 of the Rob and Bessie Welder Foundation. We thank Randy DeYoung, Alan Fedynich, and Mary Janecka for thorough editing of the manuscript and valuable comments, and Matt Jevit for creating species distribution map.

Supplementary material

10592_2016_846_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 52 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan E. Janecka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael E. Tewes
    • 2
  • Imogene A. Davis
    • 3
  • Aaron M. Haines
    • 4
  • Arturo Caso
    • 5
  • Terry L. Blankenship
    • 6
  • Rodney L. Honeycutt
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Caesar Kleberg Wildlife InstituteTexas A&M University-KingsvilleKingsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Life, Earth, and Environmental SciencesWest Texas A&M UniversityCanyonUSA
  4. 4.Applied Conservation Lab, Department of BiologyMillersville UniversityMillersvilleUSA
  5. 5.Proyecto Sobre los Felinos Silvestres de MexicoTampicoMexico
  6. 6.Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife RefugeSintonUSA
  7. 7.Natural Science DivisionPepperdine UniversityMalibuUSA

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