A genomic exploration of the early evolution of extant cats and their sabre-toothed relatives: [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]

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Background: The evolutionary relationships of Felidae during their Early-Middle Miocene radiation is contentious. Although the early common ancestors have been subsumed under the grade-group Pseudaelurus, this group is thought to be paraphyletic, including the early ancestors of both modern cats and extinct sabretooths. Methods: Here, we sequenced a draft nuclear genome of Smilodon populator, dated to 13,182 ± 90 cal BP, making this the oldest palaeogenome from South America to date, a region known to be problematic for ancient DNA preservation. We analysed this genome, together with genomes from other extinct and extant cats to investigate their phylogenetic relationships. Results: We confirm a deep divergence (~20.65 Ma) within sabre-toothed cats. Through the analysis of both simulated and empirical data, we show a lack of gene flow between Smilodon and contemporary Felidae. Conclusions: Given that some species traditionally assigned to Pseudaelurus originated in the Early Miocene ~20 Ma, this indicates that some species of Pseudaelurus may be younger than the lineages they purportedly gave rise to, further supporting the hypothesis that Pseudaelurus was paraphyletic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalOpen Research Europe
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Westbury MV et al.

    Research areas

  • Ancient DNA, Felidae, Gene flow, Genomics, Palaeogenome, Phylogeny, Smilodon

ID: 306295136