Friday, March 18, 2011

Gibbons and Siamangs Booted off the Island

Science Daily has a story about a new Primate phylogenetic tree that has been derived from sequencing 54 genetic regions in 186 species. Over the course of the last twenty years or so, with the advent of the genetic revolution, there has been a wave of new information about the higher apes that has allowed us to break them out of their “grade” of higher apes and place them more accurately taxonomically.

It now appears that gibbons and siamangs (Hylobates, Nomascus and Symphalangus) are monophyletic with respect to the clade that includes gorillas, chimpanzees, orangs and us. I have reproduced the relevant part of the image in the PLoS article to the left. About them, the authors of the article write:
The eight species included in this study form three clades that coincide with genus designation (absent is Hoolock; nodes 64–69) that diverged rapidly 8.9 MYA. Moreover, Nomascus species appear more recent than Symphalangus and Hylobates, with node divergence dates estimated at less than 1 MY (Table 3, Table S9, Figure 2). Thus, Hylobatidae exhibits episodes of rapid divergence perhaps related to excessive genome re-organization and warrants additional investigation.
Another piece of the puzzle.

Hat Tip to Bill Myers.

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