Population genetic structure and phylogeography of pumas ( Puma concolor)

Anthony Caragiulo, Fordham University


Pumas are a wide-ranging carnivore and capable of long-distance dispersal, so they should be genetically connected. The dispersal of pumas may be impeded by habitat fragmentation and increased encroachment of humans into suitable puma habitat, though no studies have addressed this issue. Pumas appear to be spatially structured based upon estimates of population subdivision from both mitochondrial DNA and highly polymorphic microsatellite loci. Pumas can be broadly grouped in North, Central (including Mexico), and South American metapopulations, with finer scale subdivision within those metapopulations. The reduced genetic diversity observed in the North American populations, relative to that of Central and South American populations, supports a previous hypothesis (Culver et al., 2000) of recolonization of North America by a founder population from these areas. Genetic diversity indices for these populations suggest pumas are moderately connected and should remain genetically viable for the foreseeable future. However, this study identified a population of pumas inhabiting the areas near the border northeastern Argentina and southwestern Brazil as being genetically isolated due to suitable habitat nearly completely surrounded by agricultural land. Additionally, a population of pumas inhabiting a peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica was also genetically distinct from surrounding populations, also indicating a lack of connectivity with other pumas. This study suggests that while pumas have viable levels of genetic diversity and connectivity, populations need to be monitored for genetic variability and genetic/geographic connectivity, especially in areas impacted by high levels of human modification. These types of studies will allow for the identification of at-risk populations and ensure the maintenance of dispersal corridors to maintain viable puma populations.

Subject Area

Wildlife Conservation|Ecology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Caragiulo, Anthony, "Population genetic structure and phylogeography of pumas ( Puma concolor)" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3560063.