Sequencing The Genome Of The Nittany Lion (puma Concolor From Pennsylvania)

Open Access
Evanitsky, Maya Nicole
Area of Honors:
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • George H Perry, Thesis Supervisor
  • Teh Hui Kao, Honors Advisor
  • Santhosh Girirajan, Thesis Supervisor
  • DNA
  • molecular biology
  • genetics
  • mountain lions
  • puma concolor
  • ancient DNA
  • mitochondrial DNA
Mountain lions (Puma concolor) were previously endemic across Pennsylvania. The species was officially declared regionally extinct in 2011 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, although the last time that a mountain lion was observed east of the Mississippi River was in Maine in 1938, excluding the current population that resides in Florida. The Northeastern population of P. concolor has been almost nonexistent since the early 1800s, most likely due to targeted hunting depredation by farmers to protect livestock, along with habitat destruction and fragmentation. The last documented observation of P. concolor in Pennsylvania specifically was in 1874. The primary goal of this study is to sequence the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes of multiple Pennsylvania P. concolor individuals using Penn State University’s Anthropology/Biology ancient DNA (aDNA) laboratory and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences core sequencing facility. Complete mtDNA genome sequences were obtained from five individuals and analyzed along with previously published P. concolor mtDNA sequences from the Western U.S. and Florida to determine the genetic diversity lost with the extinction and update the current phylogeny. Interestingly, no clustering of distinct populations was observed in the phylogeny and one of the four haplotypes found for the entire U.S. mountain lion population was common to all three regions (Northeastern U.S., Western U.S., and Florida). This result further supports previous findings documenting the low diversity found in North American mountain lions and emphasizes the need for continued conservation efforts in the Western U.S. and Florida to prevent further regional extinctions.