New species of leopard described


This beauty is a Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi ), a new species native to Borneo and Sumatra.

For many years the clouded leopard was traditionally regarded as a monotypic genus with four subspecies. But recent molecular genetic analyses (mtDNA, nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite variation, and cytogenetic differences) have revealed that there is however a strong case for reclassification and the defining of two distinct species of clouded leopard - Neofelis nebulosa (mainland Asia) and Neofelis diardi (Indonesian archipelago). This case for two clouded leopard species based on genetic
distinction that is equivalent to, or greater than, comparable measures among other Panthera species (lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard) is also strongly supported by the geographical variation revealed by morphometric analyses of the pelage (coat colour and patterns) between clouded leopard in Mainland Asia and in Indonesia (Borneo and Sumatra); again providing a compelling case for reclassification into two distinct species N. nebulosa and N. diardi. (source)

More information is here, but also see:

  • Buckley-Beason et al., (2006). Molecular Evidence for Species-Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards. Current Biology 16(23): 2371-2376. [link]
  • Kitchener et al. (2006). Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species. Current Biology 16(23): 2377-2383. [link]

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Isn't the title a bit misleading? Wouldn't declared or defined be more descriptive than discovered?

Minor point, but ok. Fixed.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 15 Mar 2007 #permalink

Interesting. And what a gorgeous animal; markings like a giant ocelot. I'll have to follow those links.

Point splitters.

Some time ago I asked in a comment on some SciBlog (I think it was this one) about definitions of species. I suggested that, now that it is possible to analyze DNA, that differences in DNA should be the measure. And whover it was said that that wouldn't work because the measure of amount of difference would be an arbitrarily assigned number. Doesn't this: "This case for two clouded leopard species based on genetic distinction that is equivalent to, or greater than, comparable measures among other Panthera species" indicate that that is what they're doing?
I apologize if you aren't the one that I asked about this.

Not to complicate the issue but I just wanted to add that the definition of a 'species' has been something that has been wrestled with constantly through history, for example, Darwin discussed it extensively in Origin of Species. There are always organisms that will cross any neat boundaries for a species we lay out for them. Eg. animals that can breed but are sterile (donkeys), animals that are only bred in captivity (liger/tigon), ring species, etc. The ability to examine genomes does not clarify the issue, but rather adds a new definition of species.

Sorry for self-advertisement, but I've just covered this story over on Tetrapod Zoology too. Those who cry 'splitter' are totally missing the point: the Indonesian clouded leopard is a morphologically and genetically distinct taxon that was originally described as a distinct species, only to be later lumped as a synonym of another taxon (in this case, the mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa).

cool what this site says is veary nice and true