Maddy Bursell publishes “Whole genome analysis of clouded leopard species reveals an ancient divergence and distinct demographic histories”


“Similar to other apex predator species, populations of mainland (Neofelis nebulosa) and Sunda (Neofelis diardi) clouded leopards are declining. Understanding their patterns of genetic variation can provide critical insights on past genetic erosion and a baseline for understanding their long-term conservation needs. As a step toward this goal, we present draft genome assemblies for the two clouded leopard species to quantify their phylogenetic divergence, genome-wide diversity, and historical population trends. We estimate that the two species diverged 5.1 Mya, much earlier than previous estimates of 1.41 Mya and 2.86 Mya, suggesting they separated when Sundaland was becoming increasingly isolated from mainland Southeast Asia. The Sunda clouded leopard displays a distinct and reduced effective population size trajectory, consistent with a lower genome-wide heterozygosity and SNP density, relative to the mainland clouded leopard. Our results provide new insights into the evolutionary history and genetic health of this unique lineage of felids” (Bursell et al., 2022).

Additional details about the genome analysis of the clouded leopard species and Maddy Bursell’s research are described.