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Phylogenetic relationships among Lemuridae (Primates): evidence from mtDNA

Journal of Human Evolution
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/jhev.2002.0587
  • Lemuridae
  • Primates
  • Phylogeny
  • Molecular Evolution
  • Sequencing
  • Mitochondrial Dna
  • Mathematics


Abstract The family Lemuridae includes four genera: Eulemur, Hapalemur, Lemur, Varecia . Taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships between L. catta, Eulemur and Hapalemur, and of Varecia to these other lemurids, continue to be hotly debated. Nodal relationships among the five Eulemur species also remain contentious. A mitochondrial DNA sequence dataset from the ND3, ND4L, ND4 genes and five tRNAs (Gly, Arg, His, Ser, Leu) was generated to try to clarify phylogenetic relationships within the Lemuridae. Samples ( n=39) from all ten lemurid species were collected and analysed. Three Daubentonia madagascariensis were included as outgroup taxa. The ∼2400 bp sequences were analysed using maximum parsimony, neighbor-joining and maximum likelihood methods. The results support monophyly of Eulemur, a basal divergence of Varecia, and a sister-group relationship for Lemur/Hapalemur . Based on tree topology, bootstrap values, and pairwise distance comparisons, we conclude that Varecia and Eulemur both represent distinct genera separate from L. catta. H. griseus and H. aureus form a clade with strong support, but the sequence data do not permit robust resolution of the trichotomy involving H. simus, H. aureus/H. griseus and L. catta. Within Eulemur there is strong support for a clade containing E. fulvus, E. mongoz and E. rubriventer. However, analyses failed to clearly resolve relationships among those three species or with the more distantly related E. coronatus and E. macaco. Our sequencing data support the current subspecific status of E.m. macaco and E.m. flavifrons, and that of V.v. variegata and V.v. rubra. However, tree topology and relatively large genetic distances among individual V.v. variegata indicate that there may be more phylogenetic structure within this taxon than is indicated by current taxonomy.

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