The genus Potos (Procyonidae) is currently recognized as a monotypic genus comprising the single species Potos flavus, the kinkajou. Kinkajous are widely distributed throughout forested habitats of tropical Central and South America, extending from eastern Brazil across central Bolivia, eastern Peru, northern Ecuador, Guianas, Suriname, Venezuela, Colombia, and then through Central America and into western Mexico. The taxonomic history of the species is complex, with seven or eight subspecies historically recognized to acknowledge the phenotypic variation among populations. In this study, the systematics and the evolutionary history of Potos flavus were investigated based on the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b, including specimens from a large range of localities, covering most of the distribution of the species, from central Middle America (Costa Rica and Panama) through South America (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, and French Guiana). Analyses of 30 Potos flavus sequences showed 27 haplotypes that were grouped in five main clades in all phylogenetic analyses. These clades suggested a high geographic structure with specimens from (1) Costa Rica, (2) Guianas and North Brazil, (3) North Peru, (4) Ecuador and Panama, (5a) interfluves Branco-Negro rivers in the Brazilian Amazon, (5b) Eastern Atlantic Forest, (5c) Amazonian lowlands east Negro river including Bolivia, Peru, and West Brazil. Each of these clades differs from 4.5 % to 9.3 % in their genetic distance estimates, which suggests that the specific status of some of these lineages should be reconsidered. Divergence dating and biogeographic analysis suggested that crown Potos diversified in the Miocene-Pliocene in South America, and geographic barriers, such as savannas and rivers, may have played a significant role in the kinkajou diversification.
- Cytochrome b
- Genetic diversity