Taxonomic revision of the pampas cat Leopardus colocola complex (Carnivora: Felidae): an integrative approach.
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society
The pampas cat Leopardus colocola has been subject to conflicting classifications over the years. Currently, one polytypic species with seven subspecies is recognized, but integrative taxonomic study for this debated group has never been done. Here, we combine the broadest morphological coverage of the pampas cat to date with molecular data and ecological niche models to clarify its species composition and test the validity of recently proposed subspecies. The multiple lines of evidence derived from morphology, molecular, biogeography and climatic niche datasets converged on the recognition of five monotypic species: L. braccatus, L. colocola, L. garleppi (including thomasi, budini, steinbachi, crespoi and wolffsohni as synonyms), L. munoai and L. pajeros (including crucina as synonym). These five species are morphologically diagnosable based on skin and skull traits, have evolved in distinct climatic niche spaces and were recovered in molecular species delimitation. Contrary to previous taxonomic arrangements, we do not recognize subspecies in pampas cats. To objectively define the two most controversial species, we designate neotypes for L. colocola and L. pajeros. The diversification of pampas cats is associated with Middle Pleistocene glaciations, but additional genetic samples from the central Andean region are still needed to conclusively reconstruct its evolutionary history.