Date Published: March 30, 2017
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Yu Zhou, Si-Rui Wang, Jian-Zhang Ma, Axel Janke.
Extant Feliformia species are one of the most diverse radiations of Carnivora (~123 species). Despite substantial recent interest in their conservation, diversification, and systematic study, no previous phylogeny contains a comprehensive species set, and no biogeography of this group is available. Here, we present a phylogenetic estimate for Feliformia with a comprehensive species set and establish a historical biogeography based on mitochondrial DNA. Both the Bayesian and maximum likelihood phylogeny for Feliformia are elucidated in our analyses and are strongly consistent with many groups recognized in previous studies. The mitochondrial phylogenetic relationships of Felidae were for the first time successfully reconstructed in our analyses with strong supported. When divergence times and dispersal/vicariance histories were compared with historical sea level changes, four dispersal and six vicariance events were identified. These vicariance events were closely related with global sea level changes. The transgression of sea into the lowland plains between Eurasia and Africa may have caused the vicariance in these regions. A fall in the sea level during late Miocene to Pliocene produced the Bering strait land bridge, which assisted the migration of American Feliformia ancestors from Asia to North America. In contrast with the ‘sweepstakes hypothesis’, our results suggest that the climate cooling during 30–27 Ma assisted Feliformia migration from the African mainland to Madagascar by creating a short-lived ice bridge across the Mozambique Channel. Lineages-through-time plots revealed a large increase in lineages since the Mid-Miocene. During the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum, the ecosystems and population of Feliformia rapidly expanded. Subsequent climate cooling catalyzed immigration, speciation, and the extinction of Feliformia.
Feliformia is a large suborder of Carnivora within the eutherian clade. The monophyletic origin of Feliformia is supported by molecular and morphological data [1–4]. According to Species 2000 and the databases ITIS Catalogue of Life  and Mammal Species of the World , Feliformia has six families (Felidae, Viverridae, Eupleridae, Nandiniidae, Herpestidae and Hyaenidae) with eight subfamilies (two in family Felidae, four in family Viverridae and two in family Eupleridae, while the families Herpestidae, Nandiniidae and Hyaenidae have no subfamilies), 54 genera and approximately 123 species. Due to pressures such as human hunting, habitat loss, lack of prey, and climate change, much of the extant Feliformia diversity is currently under extreme threat. According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2016–2 , there are 12 endangered species: Viverra megaspila, Prionailurus planiceps, Panthera uncia, Panthera tigris, Mungotictis decemlineata, Lynx pardinus, Leopardus jacobita, Galidictis grandidieri, Eupleres major, Cynogale bennettii, Chrotogale owstoni, and Catopuma badia, and one species, Cryptoprocta spelea, has been classified as extinct.