Genetic diversity of felids (Puma concolor, Leopardus pardalis, Leopardus tigrinus and Puma yagouaroundi) and the mesopredator (Leopardus pardalis) presence effect on density and genetic diversity of the smaller felid species.
The habitat loss and fragmentation are the main threats to many species, making them more susceptible to extinction due to reduced gene flow and loss of genetic diversity of their populations. The carnivorous mammal populations are the most vulnerable in fragmented landscapes due to their natural occurrence at low density and large home range needs. Changes in carnivore populations may also cause modifications in other species populations, for example, in herbivores (the main item of carnivores' diet), and even in populations of other carnivorous species (primarily due to competition). An example of this interaction occurs among the felid species in Brazil, where the density of the smaller species (Puma yagouaroundi and Leopardus tigrinus) is reduced due to competition with Leopardus pardalis (mesopredator), which in turn has its density increased in the absence of Puma concolor. Thus, the main objective of this work is to determine the genetic diversity of these four species of felids and evaluate whether there is a relationship between the density of L. pardalis and the density and genetic diversity of smaller felids (P. yagouaroundi and L. tigrinus). For this, we will use samples of feces, tissue and blood from six study areas in the State of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Goiás in Brazil. We will confirm the species of feces samples applying primers from ATP6 and COI mitochondrial DNA. The sample individualization, density and abundance estimative, genetic diversity, kinship and the existence of gene flow among populations will be performed through a multilocus panel of microsatellites. In this sense, this work intends understanding how fragmentation can influence the genetic diversity and the ecological relationships among species, and assists the choice of protected areas which enable the gene flow among populations, ensuring their long term viability.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: