Aim Using molecular data and dental features, we investigated the genetic and morphological diversity among species of palm civets in the genus Paradoxurus, with a focus on the common palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Carnivora, Viverridae), in order to address biogeographic scenarios and provide recommendations for a taxonomic revision.
Location Asia: Pakistan to the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Methods We investigated the genetic diversity within Paradoxurus using two mitochondrial (cytochrome b, control region) and one nuclear (intron 7 of the β-fibrinogen) markers. We used samples from 85 individuals of P. hermaphroditus (including 20 museum specimens) and one representative of each of the other species in the genus Paradoxurus: Paradoxurus jerdoni and Paradoxurus zeylonensis. DNA sequences were analysed using phylogenetic and haplotype network methods, and divergence dates were estimated for the clades retrieved. Furthermore, we examined dental characters from a large series of specimens and compared the morphological variation with the molecular data.
Results Our phylogenetic analyses revealed that P. hermaphroditus is paraphyletic. We identified three major lineages distributed: (1) in the Indian subcontinent, south China, Hainan and in areas above 200 m in Indochina; (2) in Peninsular Malaysia, Java, Sumatra and in areas below 200 m in Indochina; and (3) in Borneo, the Philippines and the Mentawai archipelago. Our morphological observations were congruent with these three molecular lineages. Divergence date estimates inferred a Pliocene origin for Paradoxurus (2.8–5.7 Ma), with the three main clades diversifying from the mid–Early Pliocene to the end of the Pliocene. We suggest that the flooding of the Isthmus of Kra during the Pliocene was a major event shaping the diversification of Paradoxurus palm civets. We also hypothesize that the elevational segregation of the two lineages on the mainland could have resulted from the vegetational changes that were induced by Late Pliocene glacial episodes.
Main conclusions The Isthmus of Kra is a major boundary between two major lineages of P. hermaphroditus. There is a need for a taxonomic revision for P. hermaphroditus, and we suggest that this species should be split into at least three species.