To investigate genetic diversity and phylogeography of the Asian leopard cat (Felis bengalensis), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences were determined for 39 individuals from various areas. Sequences combining the complete cytochrome b gene (1,140 bp) with the partial control region (646–810 bp) were classified into 24 haplotypes: 21 types from 21 animals, one from eight animals from Tsushima Islands, one from eight animals from Iriomote Island, and one from two animals from Southeast Asia. Phylogenetic trees of the 24 haplotypes clearly showed three clades: a Northern Lineage and Southern Lineages 1 and 2. The Northern Lineage consisted of animals from Tsushima Islands, the Korean Peninsula, the continental Far East, Taiwan, and Iriomote Island. Within the Northern Lineage, genetic contacts could have occurred between geographically neighboring populations before isolation by straits. Southern Lineage 1, comprising Southeast Asian animals, showed higher genetic diversity. Southern Lineage 2 had large genetic distances from other lineages. Within the control region, the Asian leopard cats shared two to four repetitive motifs, and the number of motifs and their constitution were highly variable among individuals. The motifs were polymorphic even within individuals and could be classified into 31 types. Finally, males of mtDNA Southern Lineage 1 had either of two types of the Y-chromosomal gene ZFY, whereas all males of Northern Lineage shared only one type. Our results indicate that the diversity of southern populations is higher and that genetic differentiation among northern local populations reflects past geographical isolation.
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