The decline in Iberian lynx numbers has had a dramatic effect on the genetic variation of the species. The analysis of contemporary nuclear microsatellite marker variation revealed levels of diversity that are extremely low compared to other species of cats, especially in the Doñana population, whose diversity is 33% lower than Andújar's, a strong genetic differentiation between the two populations, and bottleneck signals.
Analysis of museum specimens covering the historic range shows significantly higher overall diversity and progressive loss of diversity in remnant populations, and lower levels of genetic structure in the past.
The patterns observed for microsatellite markers indicate major effects of genetic drift, in line with population sizes and times of isolation of each population, and warn of risks arising from the likely loss of adaptive diversity and the negative effects of the accumulation of deleterious alleles and homozygosity over time.
Neither of these aspects (adaptive diversity, deleterious alleles and inbreeding depression) has been directly assessed to date, mainly due to the lack of genomic information and resources, a deficiency that this project aims to repair.
The Iberian lynx is the most emblematic endangered species in Spain and a symbol and a enormous challenge for conservation. A seteep decline had relegated them to two isolated populations in Doñana and Andújar, both in Andalusia's region, with around 60 and 200 individuals, respectively.
It is suspected that genetic factors might be behind recently observed decreases in survival and reproduction in this populations. Genomic researches will be helpful to improve the conservation programmes, in the Captive Breeding Centres and in the ex situ one, finding the specimens with genetic problems.