Hassan-Beigi, Y., Rodrigues, M., Adibi, M.A., Adibi, M.A., Madjdzadeh, S.M., Vercammen, P., Farhadinia, M.S. & Fernandes, C. (2022) Mitochondrial DNA variation of the caracal (Caracal caracal) in Iran and range-wide phylogeographic comparisons.Mammalian Biology, Online early, . DOI:10.1007/s42991-022-00328-1 (IF2021 1,989; Q2 Zoology)
The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized felid with a wide distribution in Africa and extending through Southwest Asia to India. It remains essentially unstudied in its genetic diversity and structure and phylogeographic history throughout its geographic range. In this study, we analysed mitochondrial Cytochrome b variation in the Iranian caracal and found considerably low diversity and a lack of geographic structure. Mitochondrial diversity patterns are compatible with a recent demographic bottleneck or a founder event by a single or few lineages at the origin of the extant diversity. We also analysed sequences from other areas along the caracal’s range for the first range-wide phylogeographic comparisons in the species. The haplotypes found in the Arabian Peninsula are identical or closely related to the haplotype predominant in Iran, which raises the hypothesis that the historical demographic pattern inferred for Iran may be extended to Southwest Asia. A remarkable result was to find in a Somalian individual a haplotype very divergent from all other sequences analysed. Several different analyses, including sequencing of a fragment of the ATP8/6 genes located at least about 6.4 kb from Cytochrome b in the mitochondrial DNA molecule, suggest that this lineage in the Somalian sample is mitochondrial and not a non-functional nuclear pseudogene. Its genetic divergence from haplotypes in Southwest Asia and South Africa was estimated to be 8.2 ± 1.4% and 7.5 ± 1.3%, respectively. In comparison, the genetic divergence between the more geographically distant Southwest Asian and South African haplotypes was 2.0 ± 0.6%. A critical examination of the results of the different molecular clock methods used points to a divergence time between the Somalian haplotype and the Southwest Asian + South African clade in the late Early Pleistocene at ~ 1–1.3 Ma, and between the Southwest Asian and South African lineages at ~ 300–500 ka, i.e., midway through the Middle Pleistocene.