Howard-Mccombe J, Banfield L, Kitchener AC, Al Qahtani H, Toosy A, Qarqas M, Craig M, Abramov A, Veron G, Brito JC, Azizi S, Breton B, Silwa A, Witzenberger K, Hochkirch A, Senn H



The sand cat, Felis margarita Loche, 1858, is a small desert cat with a fragmented distribution across the Sahara, Arabian Peninsula, and Central Asia. It is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN; however, its status in many countries is unknown. Sand cats are generally classified into four subspecies: F. m. margarita (North Africa and Sahara), F. m. harrisoni (Arabia), F. m. thinobia (Central Asia), and F. m. scheffeli (Pakistan). The aim of this study was to determine the validity of these subspecies using genetic analysis. Sequences from the mitochondrial control region, mitochondrial NADH subunit 5, and cytochrome b genes (643 bp) were generated in a sample set of 47 animals of known geographical origin, from across the sand cat’s range over the past 100 years. The results of the analysis suggest some degree of genetic differentiation between the African populations (F. m. margarita) and those of Arabian or Central Asian origin, which merits further investigation with nuclear loci and further sampling of intermediate geographical locations. There is little genetic justification for differentiation of the other proposed subspecies (F. m. harrisoni, F. m. thinobia, and F. m. scheffeli), which differ only by 1–3 bp mutations in their haplotypes. The genetic diversity of a set of 86 captive sand cat samples is also generated and compared to facilitate future conservation management of the species in captivity



Journal: Journal of Mammalian Evolution

DOI: 10.1007/s10914-019-09473-w