Iberian lynx in Central Spain – new relict populations?

A study published by researchers from CSIC this month in Animal Conservation (Looking for the Iberian lynx in central Spain: a needle in a haystack?) examines the possible relict populations of Iberian lynx outside the two known populations of lynx in the Sierra Morena and Doñana. To determine the current distribution of Iberian lynx outside the two recognized populations, the team surveyed five different areas between 2004 and 2007 where the species is considered extinct and collected 581 faeces for the genetic identification of the species. They identified 18 samples as belonging to Iberian lynx in four out of the five areas studied (including the area , providing clear evidence for the presence of lynx in central Spain. In some areas the species was detected repeatedly at different localities and on different dates, indicating a regular occurrence of an unknown number of individuals. Crucially, five new haplotypes have been found which appear to confirm these are genetically distinct animals from new populations and not dispersed animals.

These areas were studied. Lynx scats were found in the first four

  • Montes de Toledo
  • Sierra del Relumbrar
  • Western Sierra Morena
  • Río Guadalmez (Ciudad Real), where lynxes were recorded last year and where it appears there is a population of 12-18 individuals. See Lynx in Castilla-La Mancha (from Lynx brief)
  • Sierra de Gata. No signs found despite numerous attempts.

As biologist Fernando Alda points out the data proves that they are at least “out there” and that even though they are in very small number they could provide valuable genetic variability to the two main populations of Doñana and Andújar. He also believes they should also be considered as areas for reintroduction.

I haven’t seen the full article on which this story is based though I am sure that more details will come out. My doubt was, as with the River Guadalmez lynxes, whether we are talking about relict populations or a individuals which have dispersed from the Sierra Morena stronghold of Andújar-Cardoña. But the five new haplotypes appear to confirm these are genetically distinct animals which would provide a valuable increase in genetic variability for the lynx.

See also El Público

  • Photo above from ex situ Iberian lynx conservation programme. Here

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