Nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 50 domestic cats (Felis catus) obtained from the Tsushima Islands were determined and the genetic diversity was analyzed. In the cats, six haplotypes of the complete cytochrome b sequences (1,140 base-pairs, bp) and ten haplotypes of the partial control region sequences (350 bp) were identified. Haplotypes obtained from both genes showed existence of at least 11 maternal lineages of domestic cats in Tsushima. Mean values of polymorphic site numbers and sequences differences in the control region were 2.4 times and 1.8 times higher than those in the cytochrome b gene, respectively. Our results support the idea that the evolutionary rate of the control region was faster than that of the cytochrome b as reported in other mammals. Molecular phylogenetic trees showed the similar clustering of haplotypes for both genes. Meanwhile, no individual variations within the Tsushima leopard cat (Felis bengalensis euptilura), which is native to Tsushima, were observed, possibly as a result of genetic drift in the small ancestral population by geographical isolation. In contrast, the diversity of the domestic cat population was higher than that of the leopard cats, because the genetic variability of the former's founders, which were repeatedly brought to Tsushima in the past, still remains. In addition, no sequences of the leopard cat mtDNA were detected in any domestic cats. However, because the possibility that the domestic cat would crossbreed with the leopard cat cannot be denied, genetic monitoring of two species is necessary to biological conservation in Tsushima.
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