The source areas of the Japanese populations of the masked palm civet Paguma larvata (Viverridae, Carnivora), an alien species in Japan, have not been identified. In the present study, to reveal their origins and genetic features, we determined the full mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b sequences (1,140 base-pairs) of a total of 206 individuals of P. larvata from the Honshu and Shikoku islands of Japan (186 animals) and Taiwan (20 animals), and investigated their molecular phylogeography and the genetic relationships between populations in these countries. We found that each animal from Japan exhibited one of four haplotypes (JA1, JA2, JA4, and JA5), and that JA1 and JA4 were more frequent in eastern Honshu and Shikoku—central Honshu, respectively. By contrast, six haplotypes consisting of four new types (TW1, TW2, TW3, and TW4) and the previously reported two types (JA1 and JA4) were identified from 20 animals from native populations in Taiwan. Within Taiwan, one haplotype set (JA1, TW1, and TW2) was distributed in the western region, while a second (JA4, TW3, and TW4) was found in the eastern region; these regions are separated by high mountain ranges. Our comparison of haplotype distributions strongly demonstrated that the eastern Japanese populations originated from animals of western Taiwan, and that the western Japanese populations originated from those of eastern Taiwan. In addition, the lower genetic variability and particular distribution patterns of haplotypes in Japan showed founder effects, which may have resulted from multiple introductions of P. larvata to Japan from Taiwan.
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