Genetic identification of prey species from teeth in faeces from the Endangered leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis using mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequence

To understand the dietary ecology of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), DNA analysis was performed to identify prey species using DNA isolated from teeth harvested from the faeces of this feline species. From 70 DNA samples, a total of 52 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b (cytb) gene sequences of mammals were identified. The results of a sequence identity test indicated that those sequences were derived from four rodent species (Apodemus agrarius, Apodemus peninsulae, Eothenomys regulus and Tamias sibiricus) and two shrew species (Crocidura lasiura and Crocidura shantungensis). The sequences contained nine unique cytb sequences from site 1 and 13 from site 2. These results indicate that the leopard cat hunts rodents and shrews, and at least nine animals at site 1 and 13 animals at site 2 were eaten. These findings suggest that the animal molecular signatures that remain undigested in the faeces may provide useful ecological information about food items and may contribute to a better understanding of the leopard cat’s feeding ecology.