Baclground: The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is one of the least known cat species and depletion of their forested habitats puts it under heavy pressure. Recently reclassification of Bornean clouded leopards (N. nebulosa diardi) to species level (N.diardi) was suggested based on molecular and morphological evidence. Since the genetic results were based solely on three Bornean samples we re-evaluated this partition using additional samples of Bornean clouded leopards (N = 7) and we were also able to include specimens from Sumatra (N = 3), which were lacking in previous analysis. Results: We found strong support for the distinction between N. nebulosa and N. diardi based on three fragments of mtDNA (900 bp) and 18 microsatellites. Forty-one fixed mitochondrial nucleotide differences and non-overlapping allele sizes in 8 of 18 microsatellite loci distinguished N. nebulosa and N. diardi. This is equivalent to the genetic divergence among recognized species in the genus Ponthero. Sumatran clouded leopards clustered with specimens from Borneo, suggesting that Sumatran individuals also belong to N. diardi. Additionally, a significant population subdivision was apparent among N. diardi from Sumatra and Borneo based on mtDNA and microsatellite data. Conclusion: Referring to their origin on two Sunda Islands we propose to give N. diardi the common name "Sundaland clouded leopard". The reduced gene flow between Borneo and Sumatra might suggest the recognition of two subspecies of N. diardi. Based on this reclassification of clouded leopards not only species, but also the populations on Borneo and Sumatra should be managed separately and a higher priority should be placed to protect the different populations from extinction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology