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1.  Molecular Evolutionary Characterization of a V1R Subfamily Unique to Strepsirrhine Primates 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(1):213-227.
Vomeronasal receptor genes have frequently been invoked as integral to the establishment and maintenance of species boundaries among mammals due to the elaborate one-to-one correspondence between semiochemical signals and neuronal sensory inputs. Here, we report the most extensive sample of vomeronasal receptor class 1 (V1R) sequences ever generated for a diverse yet phylogenetically coherent group of mammals, the tooth-combed primates (suborder Strepsirrhini). Phylogenetic analysis confirms our intensive sampling from a single V1R subfamily, apparently unique to the strepsirrhine primates. We designate this subfamily as V1Rstrep. The subfamily retains extensive repertoires of gene copies that descend from an ancestral gene duplication that appears to have occurred prior to the diversification of all lemuriform primates excluding the basal genus Daubentonia (the aye-aye). We refer to the descendent clades as V1Rstrep-α and V1Rstrep-β. Comparison of the two clades reveals different amino acid compositions corresponding to the predicted ligand-binding site and thus potentially to altered functional profiles between the two. In agreement with previous studies of the mouse lemur (genus, Microcebus), the majority of V1Rstrep gene copies appear to be intact and under strong positive selection, particularly within transmembrane regions. Finally, despite the surprisingly high number of gene copies identified in this study, it is nonetheless probable that V1R diversity remains underestimated in these nonmodel primates and that complete characterization will be limited until high-coverage assembled genomes are available.
PMCID: PMC3914689  PMID: 24398377
G-protein-coupled receptors; lemurs; positive selection; olfaction; chemosensory genes; gene family evolution
2.  The Origin of the RB1 Imprint 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81502.
The human RB1 gene is imprinted due to a differentially methylated CpG island in intron 2. This CpG island is part of PPP1R26P1, a truncated retrocopy of PPP1R26, and serves as a promoter for an alternative RB1 transcript. We show here by in silico analyses that the parental PPP1R26 gene is present in the analysed members of Haplorrhini, which comprise Catarrhini (Old World Monkeys, Small apes, Great Apes and Human), Platyrrhini (New World Monkeys) and tarsier, and Strepsirrhini (galago). Interestingly, we detected the retrocopy, PPP1R26P1, in all Anthropoidea (Catarrhini and Platyrrhini) that we studied but not in tarsier or galago. Additional retrocopies are present in human and chimpanzee on chromosome 22, but their distinct composition indicates that they are the result of independent retrotransposition events. Chimpanzee and marmoset have further retrocopies on chromosome 8 and chromosome 4, respectively. To examine the origin of the RB1 imprint, we compared the methylation patterns of the parental PPP1R26 gene and its retrocopies in different primates (human, chimpanzee, orangutan, rhesus macaque, marmoset and galago). Methylation analysis by deep bisulfite sequencing showed that PPP1R26 is methylated whereas the retrocopy in RB1 intron 2 is differentially methylated in all primates studied. All other retrocopies are fully methylated, except for the additional retrocopy on marmoset chromosome 4, which is also differentially methylated. Using an informative SNP for the methylation analysis in marmoset, we could show that the differential methylation pattern of the retrocopy on chromosome 4 is allele-specific. We conclude that the epigenetic fate of a PPP1R26 retrocopy after integration depends on the DNA sequence and selective forces at the integration site.
PMCID: PMC3839921  PMID: 24282601
3.  An Alu-Based Phylogeny of Gibbons (Hylobatidae) 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2012;29(11):3441-3450.
Gibbons (Hylobatidae) are small, arboreal apes indigenous to Southeast Asia that diverged from other apes ∼15–18 Ma. Extant lineages radiated rapidly 6–10 Ma and are organized into four genera (Hylobates, Hoolock, Symphalangus, and Nomascus) consisting of 12–19 species. The use of short interspersed elements (SINEs) as phylogenetic markers has seen recent popularity due to several desirable characteristics: the ancestral state of a locus is known to be the absence of an element, rare potentially homoplasious events are relatively easy to resolve, and samples can be quickly and inexpensively genotyped. During radiation of primates, one particular family of SINEs, the Alu family, has proliferated in primate genomes. Nomascus leucogenys (northern white-cheeked gibbon) sequences were analyzed for repetitive content with RepeatMasker using a custom library. The sequences containing Alu elements identified as members of a gibbon-specific subfamily were then compared with orthologous positions in other primate genomes. A primate phylogenetic panel consisting of 18 primate species, including 13 gibbon species representing all four extant genera, was assayed for all loci, and a total of 125 gibbon-specific Alu insertions were identified. The resulting amplification patterns were used to generate a phylogenetic tree. We demonstrate significant support for Symphalangus as the most basal lineage within the family. Our findings also place Nomascus as a derived lineage, sister to Hoolock, with the Nomascus–Hoolock clade sister to Hylobates. Further, our analysis groups N. leucogenys and Nomascus siki as sister taxa to the exclusion of the other Nomascus species assayed. This study represents the first use of SINEs to determine the genus level phylogenetic relationships within the family Hylobatidae. These relationships have been resolved with robust support at most internal nodes, demonstrating the utility of SINE-based phylogenetic analysis. We postulate that hybridization and rapid radiation may have contributed to the complex and contradictory findings of the previous studies. Our findings will aid in the conservation of these threatened primates and inform future studies of the biogeographical history and distribution of modern gibbon species.
PMCID: PMC3472497  PMID: 22683814
primate; ape; phylogeny; retrotransposon; SINE; mobile elements
4.  Discordance Between Spatial Distributions of Y-Chromosomal and Mitochondrial Haplotypes in African Green Monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.): A Result of Introgressive Hybridization or Cryptic Diversity? 
Introgressive hybridization may cause substantial discordances among phylogenies based on different genetic markers. Such discordances have been found in diverse mammal species including primates. A recent study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) revealed several poly- and paraphyletic relationships in African green monkeys (Chlorocebus), suggesting contemporary and/or ancient introgressive hybridization among almost all parapatric species of the genus. However, mtDNA analyses alone do not allow us to draw conclusions concerning introgression events. In this study we analyzed two Y chromosomal (Y-chr) markers for 30 African green monkey samples and compared the resulting genetic relationships to those based on published mtDNA data. In line with the results for mtDNA, we found no Y-chr evidence of hypothesized hybridization among Chlorocebus sabaeus and C. tantalus in the northern part of the contact zone in West Africa, and we found two distinct and distantly related Y-chr haplotypes within the range of C. tantalus, suggesting possible cryptic genetic diversity rather than ancient introgressive hybridization in this species. In contrast, Y-chr data revealed monophyletic relationships within Chlorocebus pygerythrus from East Africa, suggesting that mtDNA paraphylies found in this species are most likely to be the result of ancient introgressive hybridization and subsequent cytonuclear extinction of an earlier taxon. Our results accentuate the importance of analyzing sex chromosomal data in addition to mtDNA to obtain more information on the potential outcomes of hybridization with respect to genetic and species diversity. Analysis of more diverse nuclear marker sets is needed to obtain a more complete picture of the African green monkey evolution.
PMCID: PMC3789887  PMID: 24098065
Ancient hybridization; Nuclear swamping; Old World monkeys; Outcomes of hybridization
5.  Genetic Diversity in Endangered Guizhou Snub-Nosed Monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi): Contrasting Results from Microsatellite and Mitochondrial DNA Data 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e73647.
To evaluate the conservation status of a species or population it is necessary to gain insight into its ecological requirements, reproduction, genetic population structure, and overall genetic diversity. In our study we examined the genetic diversity of Rhinopithecus brelichi by analyzing microsatellite data and compared them with already existing data derived from mitochondrial DNA, which revealed that R. brelichi exhibits the lowest mitochondrial diversity of all so far studied Rhinopithecus species. In contrast, the genetic diversity of nuclear DNA is high and comparable to other Rhinopithecus species, i.e. the examined microsatellite loci are similarly highly polymorphic as in other species of the genus. An explanation for these differences in mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity could be a male biased dispersal. Females most likely stay within their natal band and males migrate between bands, thus mitochondrial DNA will not be exchanged between bands but nuclear DNA via males. A Bayesian Skyline Plot based on mitochondrial DNA sequences shows a strong decrease of the female effective population size (Nef) starting about 3,500 to 4,000 years ago, which concurs with the increasing human population in the area and respective expansion of agriculture. Given that we found no indication for a loss of nuclear DNA diversity in R. brelichi it seems that this factor does not represent the most prominent conservation threat for the long-term survival of the species. Conservation efforts should therefore focus more on immediate threats such as development of tourism and habitat destruction.
PMCID: PMC3756984  PMID: 24009761
6.  A Mitogenomic Phylogeny of Living Primates 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69504.
Primates, the mammalian order including our own species, comprise 480 species in 78 genera. Thus, they represent the third largest of the 18 orders of eutherian mammals. Although recent phylogenetic studies on primates are increasingly built on molecular datasets, most of these studies have focused on taxonomic subgroups within the order. Complete mitochondrial (mt) genomes have proven to be extremely useful in deciphering within-order relationships even up to deep nodes. Using 454 sequencing, we sequenced 32 new complete mt genomes adding 20 previously not represented genera to the phylogenetic reconstruction of the primate tree. With 13 new sequences, the number of complete mt genomes within the parvorder Platyrrhini was widely extended, resulting in a largely resolved branching pattern among New World monkey families. We added 10 new Strepsirrhini mt genomes to the 15 previously available ones, thus almost doubling the number of mt genomes within this clade. Our data allow precise date estimates of all nodes and offer new insights into primate evolution. One major result is a relatively young date for the most recent common ancestor of all living primates which was estimated to 66-69 million years ago, suggesting that the divergence of extant primates started close to the K/T-boundary. Although some relationships remain unclear, the large number of mt genomes used allowed us to reconstruct a robust primate phylogeny which is largely in agreement with previous publications. Finally, we show that mt genomes are a useful tool for resolving primate phylogenetic relationships on various taxonomic levels.
PMCID: PMC3713065  PMID: 23874967
7.  Relatively Recent Evolution of Pelage Coloration in Colobinae: Phylogeny and Phylogeography of Three Closely Related Langur Species 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61659.
To understand the evolutionary processes leading to the diversity of Asian colobines, we report here on a phylogenetic, phylogeographical and population genetic analysis of three closely related langurs, Trachypithecus francoisi, T. poliocephalus and T. leucocephalus, which are all characterized by different pelage coloration predominantly on the head and shoulders. Therefore, we sequenced a 395 bp long fragment of the mitochondrial control region from 178 T. francoisi, 54 T. leucocephalus and 19 T. poliocephalus individuals, representing all extant populations of these three species. We found 29 haplotypes in T. francoisi, 12 haplotypes in T. leucocephalus and three haplotypes in T. poliocephalus. T. leucocephalus and T. poliocephalus form monophyletic clades, which are both nested within T. francoisi, and diverged from T. francoisi recently, 0.46-0.27 (T. leucocephalus) and 0.50-0.25 million years ago (T. poliocephalus). Thus, T. francoisi appears as a polyphyletic group, while T. leucocephalus and T. poliocephalus are most likely independent descendents of T. francoisi that are both physically separated from T. francoisi populations by rivers, open sea or larger habitat gaps. Since T. francoisi populations show no variability in pelage coloration, pelage coloration in T. leucocephalus and T. poliocephalus is most likely the result of new genetic mutations after the split from T. francoisi and not of the fixation of different characters derived from an ancestral polymorphism. This case study highlights that morphological changes for example in pelage coloration can occur in isolated populations in relatively short time periods and it provides a solid basis for studies in related species. Nevertheless, to fully understand the evolutionary history of these three langur species, nuclear loci should be investigated as well.
PMCID: PMC3629164  PMID: 23613895
9.  Correction: Mitochondrial Genome Sequences Effectively Reveal the Phylogeny of Hylobates Gibbons 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):10.1371/annotation/9ca325c6-7a42-4cfd-9085-125571708b5c.
PMCID: PMC3894298
10.  Human-specific CpG “beacons” identify loci associated with human-specific traits and disease 
Epigenetics  2012;7(10):1188-1199.
Regulatory change has long been hypothesized to drive the delineation of the human phenotype from other closely related primates. Here we provide evidence that CpG dinucleotides play a special role in this process. CpGs enable epigenome variability via DNA methylation, and this epigenetic mark functions as a regulatory mechanism. Therefore, species-specific CpGs may influence species-specific regulation. We report non-polymorphic species-specific CpG dinucleotides (termed “CpG beacons”) as a distinct genomic feature associated with CpG island (CGI) evolution, human traits and disease. Using an inter-primate comparison, we identified 21 extreme CpG beacon clusters (≥ 20/kb peaks, empirical p < 1.0 × 10−3) in humans, which include associations with four monogenic developmental and neurological disease related genes (Benjamini-Hochberg corrected p = 6.03 × 10−3). We also demonstrate that beacon-mediated CpG density gain in CGIs correlates with reduced methylation in these species in orthologous CGIs over time, via human, chimpanzee and macaque MeDIP-seq. Therefore mapping into both the genomic and epigenomic space the identified CpG beacon clusters define points of intersection where a substantial two-way interaction between genetic sequence and epigenetic state has occurred. Taken together, our data support a model for CpG beacons to contribute to CGI evolution from genesis to tissue-specific to constitutively active CGIs.
PMCID: PMC3469460  PMID: 22968434
epigenetics; epigenomics; CpG islands; gene regulation; evolution; human disease
11.  Large-scale MHC class II genotyping of a wild lemur population by next generation sequencing 
Immunogenetics  2012;64:895-913.
The critical role of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in disease resistance, along with their putative function in sexual selection, reproduction and chemical ecology, make them an important genetic system in evolutionary ecology. Studying selective pressures acting on MHC genes in the wild nevertheless requires population-wide genotyping, which has long been challenging because of their extensive polymorphism. Here, we report on large-scale genotyping of the MHC class II loci of the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) from a wild population in western Madagascar. The second exons from MHC-DRB and -DQB of 772 and 672 individuals were sequenced, respectively, using a 454 sequencing platform, generating more than 800,000 reads. Sequence analysis, through a stepwise variant validation procedure, allowed reliable typing of more than 600 individuals. The quality of our genotyping was evaluated through three independent methods, namely genotyping the same individuals by both cloning and 454 sequencing, running duplicates, and comparing parent–offspring dyads; each displaying very high accuracy. A total of 61 (including 20 new) and 60 (including 53 new) alleles were detected at DRB and DQB genes, respectively. Both loci were non-duplicated, in tight linkage disequilibrium and in Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, despite the fact that sequence analysis revealed clear evidence of historical selection. Our results highlight the potential of 454 sequencing technology in attempts to investigate patterns of selection shaping MHC variation in contemporary populations. The power of this approach will nevertheless be conditional upon strict quality control of the genotyping data.
PMCID: PMC3496554  PMID: 22948859
MHC; Genetic diversity; Next generation (454) sequencing; Microcebus murinus; Positive selection
12.  Correction: An Alu-Based Phylogeny of Lemurs (Infraorder: Lemuriformes) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):10.1371/annotation/378aaec2-599e-4cd4-8941-3a14c208b757.
PMCID: PMC3439493
13.  An Alu-Based Phylogeny of Lemurs (Infraorder: Lemuriformes) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e44035.
Lemurs (infraorder: Lemuriformes) are a radiation of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. As of 2012, 101 lemur species, divided among five families, have been described. Genetic and morphological evidence indicates all species are descended from a common ancestor that arrived in Madagascar ∼55–60 million years ago (mya). Phylogenetic relationships in this species-rich infraorder have been the subject of debate. Here we use Alu elements, a family of primate-specific Short INterspersed Elements (SINEs), to construct a phylogeny of infraorder Lemuriformes. Alu elements are particularly useful SINEs for the purpose of phylogeny reconstruction because they are identical by descent and confounding events between loci are easily resolved by sequencing. The genome of the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) was computationally assayed for synapomorphic Alu elements. Those that were identified as Lemuriformes-specific were analyzed against other available primate genomes for orthologous sequence in which to design primers for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) verification. A primate phylogenetic panel of 24 species, including 22 lemur species from all five families, was examined for the presence/absence of 138 Alu elements via PCR to establish relationships among species. Of these, 111 were phylogenetically informative. A phylogenetic tree was generated based on the results of this analysis. We demonstrate strong support for the monophyly of Lemuriformes to the exclusion of other primates, with Daubentoniidae, the aye-aye, as the basal lineage within the infraorder. Our results also suggest Lepilemuridae as a sister lineage to Cheirogaleidae, and Indriidae as sister to Lemuridae. Among the Cheirogaleidae, we show strong support for Microcebus and Mirza as sister genera, with Cheirogaleus the sister lineage to both. Our results also support the monophyly of the Lemuridae. Within Lemuridae we place Lemur and Hapalemur together to the exclusion of Eulemur and Varecia, with Varecia the sister lineage to the other three genera.
PMCID: PMC3429421  PMID: 22937148
14.  A comparative analysis of Y chromosome and mtDNA phylogenies of the Hylobates gibbons 
The evolutionary relationships of closely related species have long been of interest to biologists since these species experienced different evolutionary processes in a relatively short period of time. Comparison of phylogenies inferred from DNA sequences with differing inheritance patterns, such as mitochondrial, autosomal, and X and Y chromosomal loci, can provide more comprehensive inferences of the evolutionary histories of species. Gibbons, especially the genus Hylobates, are particularly intriguing as they consist of multiple closely related species which emerged rapidly and live in close geographic proximity. Our current understanding of relationships among Hylobates species is largely based on data from the maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs).
To infer the paternal histories of gibbon taxa, we sequenced multiple Y chromosomal loci from 26 gibbons representing 10 species. As expected, we find levels of sequence variation some five times lower than observed for the mitochondrial genome (mtgenome). Although our Y chromosome phylogenetic tree shows relatively low resolution compared to the mtgenome tree, our results are consistent with the monophyly of gibbon genera suggested by the mtgenome tree. In a comparison of the molecular dating of divergences and on the branching patterns of phylogeny trees between mtgenome and Y chromosome data, we found: 1) the inferred divergence estimates were more recent for the Y chromosome than for the mtgenome, 2) the species H. lar and H. pileatus are monophyletic in the mtgenome phylogeny, respectively, but a H. pileatus individual falls into the H. lar Y chromosome clade.
Based on the ~6.4 kb of Y chromosomal DNA sequence data generated for each of the 26 individuals in this study, we provide molecular inferences on gibbon and particularly on Hylobates evolution complementary to those from mtDNA data. Overall, our results illustrate the utility of comparative studies of loci with different inheritance patterns for investigating potential sex specific processes on the evolutionary histories of closely related taxa, and emphasize the need for further sampling of gibbons of known provenance.
PMCID: PMC3444420  PMID: 22909292
Y chromosome phylogeny; Phylogenetic relationships; Divergence times; Mitochondrial genome; Gene flow
15.  Evolutionary History of the Odd-Nosed Monkeys and the Phylogenetic Position of the Newly Described Myanmar Snub-Nosed Monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37418.
Odd-nosed monkeys represent one of the two major groups of Asian colobines. Our knowledge about this primate group is still limited as it is highlighted by the recent discovery of a new species in Northern Myanmar. Although a common origin of the group is now widely accepted, the phylogenetic relationships among its genera and species, and the biogeographic processes leading to their current distribution are largely unknown. To address these issues, we have analyzed complete mitochondrial genomes and 12 nuclear loci, including one X chromosomal, six Y chromosomal and five autosomal loci, from all ten odd-nosed monkey species. The gene tree topologies and divergence age estimates derived from different markers were highly similar, but differed in placing various species or haplogroups within the genera Rhinopithecus and Pygathrix. Based on our data, Rhinopithecus represent the most basal lineage, and Nasalis and Simias form closely related sister taxa, suggesting a Northern origin of odd-nosed monkeys and a later invasion into Indochina and Sundaland. According to our divergence age estimates, the lineages leading to the genera Rhinopithecus, Pygathrix and Nasalis+Simias originated in the late Miocene, while differentiation events within these genera and also the split between Nasalis and Simias occurred in the Pleistocene. Observed gene tree discordances between mitochondrial and nuclear datasets, and paraphylies in the mitochondrial dataset for some species of the genera Rhinopithecus and Pygathrix suggest secondary gene flow after the taxa initially diverged. Most likely such events were triggered by dramatic changes in geology and climate within the region. Overall, our study provides the most comprehensive view on odd-nosed monkey evolution and emphasizes that data from differentially inherited markers are crucial to better understand evolutionary relationships and to trace secondary gene flow.
PMCID: PMC3353941  PMID: 22616004
16.  Phylogenetic Relationships among the Colobine Monkeys Revisited: New Insights from Analyses of Complete mt Genomes and 44 Nuclear Non-Coding Markers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e36274.
Phylogenetic relationships among Asian and African colobine genera have been disputed and are not yet well established. In the present study, we revisit the contentious relationships within the Asian and African Colobinae by analyzing 44 nuclear non-coding genes (>23 kb) and mitochondrial (mt) genome sequences from 14 colobine and 4 non-colobine primates.
Principal Findings
The combined nuclear gene and the mt genome as well as the combined nuclear and mt gene analyses yielded different phylogenetic relationships among colobine genera with the exception of a monophyletic ‘odd-nosed’ group consisting of Rhinopithecus, Pygathrix and Nasalis, and a monophyletic African group consisting of Colobus and Piliocolobus. The combined nuclear data analyses supported a sister-grouping between Semnopithecus and Trachypithecus, and between Presbytis and the odd-nosed monkey group, as well as a sister-taxon association of Pygathrix and Rhinopithecus within the odd-nosed monkey group. In contrast, mt genome data analyses revealed that Semnopithecus diverged earliest among the Asian colobines and that the odd-nosed monkey group is sister to a Presbytis and Trachypithecus clade, as well as a close association of Pygathrix with Nasalis. The relationships among these genera inferred from the analyses of combined nuclear and mt genes, however, varied with the tree-building methods used. Another remarkable finding of the present study is that all of our analyses rejected the recently proposed African colobine paraphyly and hybridization hypothesis and supported reciprocal monophyly of the African and Asian groups.
The phylogenetic utility of large-scale new non-coding genes was assessed using the Colobinae as a model, We found that these markers were useful for distinguishing nodes resulting from rapid radiation episodes such as the Asian colobine radiation. None of these markers here have previously been used for colobine phylogenetic reconstruction, increasing the spectrum of molecular markers available to mammalian systematics.
PMCID: PMC3338693  PMID: 22558416
17.  Genetic signatures of a demographic collapse in a large-bodied forest dwelling primate (Mandrillus leucophaeus) 
Ecology and Evolution  2012;2(3):550-561.
It is difficult to predict how current climate change will affect wildlife species adapted to a tropical rainforest environment. Understanding how population dynamics fluctuated in such species throughout periods of past climatic change can provide insight into this issue. The drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) is a large-bodied rainforest adapted mammal found in West Central Africa. In the middle of this endangered monkey's geographic range is Lake Barombi Mbo, which has a well-documented palynological record of environmental change that dates to the Late Pleistocene. We used a Bayesian coalescent-based framework to analyze 2,076 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA across wild drill populations to infer past changes in female effective population size since the Late Pleistocene. Our results suggest that the drill underwent a nearly 15-fold demographic collapse in female effective population size that was most prominent during the Mid Holocene (approximately 3-5 Ka). This time period coincides with a period of increased dryness and seasonality across Africa and a dramatic reduction in forest coverage at Lake Barombi Mbo. We believe that these changes in climate and forest coverage were the driving forces behind the drill population decline. Furthermore, the warm temperatures and increased aridity of the Mid Holocene are potentially analogous to current and future conditions faced by many tropical rainforest communities. In order to prevent future declines in population size in rainforest-adapted species such as the drill, large tracts of forest should be protected to both preserve habitat and prevent forest loss through aridification.
PMCID: PMC3399144  PMID: 22822434
Bayesian Skyline Plot; bottleneck; climate change; Cross-Sanaga-Bioko forests; drill; Mandrillus
18.  Acoustic structure of male loud-calls support molecular phylogeny of Sumatran and Javanese leaf monkeys (genus Presbytis) 
The degree to which loud-calls in nonhuman primates can be used as a reliable taxonomic tool is the subject of ongoing debate. A recent study on crested gibbons showed that these species can be well distinguished by their songs; even at the population level the authors found reliable differences. Although there are some further studies on geographic and phylogenetic differences in loud-calls of nonhuman primate species, it is unclear to what extent loud-calls of other species have a similar close relation between acoustic structure, phylogenetic relatedness and geographic distance. We therefore conducted a field survey in 19 locations on Sumatra, Java and the Mentawai islands to record male loud-calls of wild surilis (Presbytis), a genus of Asian leaf monkeys (Colobinae) with disputed taxanomy, and compared the structure of their loud-calls with a molecular genetic analysis.
The acoustic analysis of 100 surili male loud-calls from 68 wild animals confirms the differentiation of P.potenziani, P.comata, P.thomasi and P.melalophos. In a more detailed acoustic analysis of subspecies of P.melalophos, a further separation of the southern P.m.mitrata confirms the proposed paraphyly of this group. In concordance with their geographic distribution we found the highest correlation between call structure and genetic similarity, and lesser significant correlations between call structure and geographic distance, and genetic similarity and geographic distance.
In this study we show, that as in crested gibbons, the acoustic structure of surili loud-calls is a reliable tool to distinguish between species and to verify phylogenetic relatedness and migration backgrounds of respective taxa. Since vocal production in other nonhuman primates show similar constraints, it is likely that an acoustic analysis of call structure can help to clarify taxonomic and phylogenetic relationships.
PMCID: PMC3295661  PMID: 22305415
19.  Nuclear versus mitochondrial DNA: evidence for hybridization in colobine monkeys 
Colobine monkeys constitute a diverse group of primates with major radiations in Africa and Asia. However, phylogenetic relationships among genera are under debate, and recent molecular studies with incomplete taxon-sampling revealed discordant gene trees. To solve the evolutionary history of colobine genera and to determine causes for possible gene tree incongruences, we combined presence/absence analysis of mobile elements with autosomal, X chromosomal, Y chromosomal and mitochondrial sequence data from all recognized colobine genera.
Gene tree topologies and divergence age estimates derived from different markers were similar, but differed in placing Piliocolobus/Procolobus and langur genera among colobines. Although insufficient data, homoplasy and incomplete lineage sorting might all have contributed to the discordance among gene trees, hybridization is favored as the main cause of the observed discordance. We propose that African colobines are paraphyletic, but might later have experienced female introgression from Piliocolobus/Procolobus into Colobus. In the late Miocene, colobines invaded Eurasia and diversified into several lineages. Among Asian colobines, Semnopithecus diverged first, indicating langur paraphyly. However, unidirectional gene flow from Semnopithecus into Trachypithecus via male introgression followed by nuclear swamping might have occurred until the earliest Pleistocene.
Overall, our study provides the most comprehensive view on colobine evolution to date and emphasizes that analyses of various molecular markers, such as mobile elements and sequence data from multiple loci, are crucial to better understand evolutionary relationships and to trace hybridization events. Our results also suggest that sex-specific dispersal patterns, promoted by a respective social organization of the species involved, can result in different hybridization scenarios.
PMCID: PMC3068967  PMID: 21435245
20.  A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001342.
Comparative genomic analyses of primates offer considerable potential to define and understand the processes that mold, shape, and transform the human genome. However, primate taxonomy is both complex and controversial, with marginal unifying consensus of the evolutionary hierarchy of extant primate species. Here we provide new genomic sequence (∼8 Mb) from 186 primates representing 61 (∼90%) of the described genera, and we include outgroup species from Dermoptera, Scandentia, and Lagomorpha. The resultant phylogeny is exceptionally robust and illuminates events in primate evolution from ancient to recent, clarifying numerous taxonomic controversies and providing new data on human evolution. Ongoing speciation, reticulate evolution, ancient relic lineages, unequal rates of evolution, and disparate distributions of insertions/deletions among the reconstructed primate lineages are uncovered. Our resolution of the primate phylogeny provides an essential evolutionary framework with far-reaching applications including: human selection and adaptation, global emergence of zoonotic diseases, mammalian comparative genomics, primate taxonomy, and conservation of endangered species.
Author Summary
Advances in human biomedicine, including those focused on changes in genes triggered or disrupted in development, resistance/susceptibility to infectious disease, cancers, mechanisms of recombination, and genome plasticity, cannot be adequately interpreted in the absence of a precise evolutionary context or hierarchy. However, little is known about the genomes of other primate species, a situation exacerbated by a paucity of nuclear molecular sequence data necessary to resolve the complexities of primate divergence over time. We overcome this deficiency by sequencing 54 nuclear gene regions from DNA samples representing ∼90% of the diversity present in living primates. We conduct a phylogenetic analysis to determine the origin, evolution, patterns of speciation, and unique features in genome divergence among primate lineages. The resultant phylogenetic tree is remarkably robust and unambiguously resolves many long-standing issues in primate taxonomy. Our data provide a strong foundation for illuminating those genomic differences that are uniquely human and provide new insights on the breadth and richness of gene evolution across all primate lineages.
PMCID: PMC3060065  PMID: 21436896
21.  Comparing chromosomal and mitochondrial phylogenies of the Indriidae (Primates, Lemuriformes) 
Chromosome Research  2011;19(2):209-224.
The Malagasy primate family Indriidae comprises three genera with up to 19 species. Cytogenetic and molecular phylogenies of the Indriidae have been performed with special attention to the genus Propithecus. Comparative R-banding and FISH with human paints were applied to karyotypes of representatives of all three genera and confirmed most of the earlier R-banding results. However, additional chromosomal rearrangements were detected. A reticulated and a cladistic phylogeny, the latter including hemiplasies, have been performed. Cladistic analysis of cytogenetic data resulted in a phylogenetic tree revealing (1) monophyly of the family Indriidae, (2) monophyly of the genus Avahi, (3) sister–group relationships between Propithecus diadema and Propithecus edwardsi, and (4) the grouping of the latter with Indri indri, Propithecus verreauxi, and Propithecus tattersalli, and thus suggesting paraphyly of the genus Propithecus. A molecular phylogeny based on complete mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences of 16 species indicated some identical relationships, such as the monophyly of Avahi and the sister–group relationships of the eastern (P. diadema and P. edwardsi) to the western Propithecus species (P. verreauxi, Propithecus coquereli, and P. tattersalli). However, the main difference between the molecular and cytogenetic phylogenies consists in an early divergence of Indri in the molecular phylogeny while in the chromosomal phylogeny it is nested within Propithecus. The similarities and differences between molecular and cytogenetic phylogenies in relation to data on the species’ geographic distributions and mating systems allow us to propose a scenario of the evolution of Indriidae. Chromosomal and molecular processes alone or in combination created a reproductive barrier that was then followed by further speciation processes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10577-011-9188-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3075406  PMID: 21336668
Indri; Propithecus; Avahi; Indriidae; cytogenetics; fluorescent in situ hybridization; mitochondrial phylogeny
22.  Concordance between vocal and genetic diversity in crested gibbons 
Gibbons or small apes are, next to great apes, our closest living relatives, and form the most diverse group of contemporary hominoids. A characteristic trait of gibbons is their species-specific song structure, which, however, exhibits a certain amount of inter- and intra-individual variation. Although differences in gibbon song structure are routinely applied as taxonomic tool to identify subspecies and species, it remains unclear to which degree acoustic and phylogenetic differences are correlated. To trace this issue, we comparatively analyse song recordings and mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequence data from 22 gibbon populations representing six of the seven crested gibbon species (genus Nomascus). In addition, we address whether song similarity and geographic distribution can support a recent hypothesis about the biogeographic history of crested gibbons.
The acoustic analysis of 92 gibbon duets confirms the hypothesised concordance between song structure and phylogeny. Based on features of male and female songs, we can not only distinguish between N. nasutus, N. concolor and the four southern species (N. leucogenys, N. siki, N. annamensis, N. gabriellae), but also between the latter by applying more detailed analysis. In addition to the significant correlation between song structure and genetic similarity, we find a similar high correlation between song similarity and geographic distance.
The results show that the structure of crested gibbon songs is not only a reliable tool to verify phylogenetic relatedness, but also to unravel geographic origins. As vocal production in other nonhuman primate species appears to be evolutionarily based, it is likely that loud calls produced by other species can serve as characters to elucidate phylogenetic relationships.
PMCID: PMC3044664  PMID: 21299843
23.  A Small, Variable and Irregular Killer Cell Ig-Like Receptor Locus Accompanies the Absence of MHC-C and MHC-G in Gibbons1 
The killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) of natural killer (NK) cells recognize major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I ligands and function in placental reproduction and immune defense against pathogens. During the evolution of monkeys, great apes and humans, an ancestral KIR3DL gene expanded to become a diverse and rapidly evolving gene family of four KIR lineages. Characterising the KIR locus are three framework regions, defining two intervals of variable gene-content. By analysis of four KIR haplotypes from two species of gibbon, we find that the smaller apes do not conform to these rules. Although diverse and irregular in structure, the gibbon haplotypes are unusually small, containing only two to five functional genes. Comparison with the predicted ancestral hominoid KIR haplotype indicates that modern gibbon KIR haplotypes were formed by a series of deletion events, which created new hybrid genes as well as eliminating ancestral genes. Of the three framework regions, only KIR3DL3 (lineage V), defining the 5’ end of the KIR locus, is present and intact on all gibbon KIR haplotypes. KIR2DL4 (lineage I) defining the central framework region has been a major target for elimination or inactivation, correlating with the absence of its putative ligand, MHC-G, in gibbons. Similarly, the MHC-C driven expansion of lineage III KIR genes in great apes has not occurred in gibbons because they lack MHC-C. Our results indicate that the selective forces shaping the size and organisation of the gibbon KIR locus differed from those acting upon the KIR of other hominoid species.
PMCID: PMC3017126  PMID: 20026738
Comparative Immunology/Evolution; Reproductive Immunology; Natural Killer Cells; Cell Surface Molecules; MHC
24.  Mitochondrial Genome Sequences Effectively Reveal the Phylogeny of Hylobates Gibbons 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14419.
Uniquely among hominoids, gibbons exist as multiple geographically contiguous taxa exhibiting distinctive behavioral, morphological, and karyotypic characteristics. However, our understanding of the evolutionary relationships of the various gibbons, especially among Hylobates species, is still limited because previous studies used limited taxon sampling or short mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences. Here we use mtDNA genome sequences to reconstruct gibbon phylogenetic relationships and reveal the pattern and timing of divergence events in gibbon evolutionary history.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of 51 individuals representing 11 species belonging to three genera (Hylobates, Nomascus and Symphalangus) using the high-throughput 454 sequencing system with the parallel tagged sequencing approach. Three phylogenetic analyses (maximum likelihood, Bayesian analysis and neighbor-joining) depicted the gibbon phylogenetic relationships congruently and with strong support values. Most notably, we recover a well-supported phylogeny of the Hylobates gibbons. The estimation of divergence times using Bayesian analysis with relaxed clock model suggests a much more rapid speciation process in Hylobates than in Nomascus.
Use of more than 15 kb sequences of the mitochondrial genome provided more informative and robust data than previous studies of short mitochondrial segments (e.g., control region or cytochrome b) as shown by the reliable reconstruction of divergence patterns among Hylobates gibbons. Moreover, molecular dating of the mitogenomic divergence times implied that biogeographic change during the last five million years may be a factor promoting the speciation of Sundaland animals, including Hylobates species.
PMCID: PMC3009715  PMID: 21203450
25.  Mitochondrial evidence for multiple radiations in the evolutionary history of small apes 
Gibbons or small apes inhabit tropical and subtropical rain forests in Southeast Asia and adjacent regions, and are, next to great apes, our closest living relatives. With up to 16 species, gibbons form the most diverse group of living hominoids, but the number of taxa, their phylogenetic relationships and their phylogeography is controversial. To further the discussion of these issues we analyzed the complete mitochondrial cytochrome b gene from 85 individuals representing all gibbon species, including most subspecies.
Based on phylogenetic tree reconstructions, several monophyletic clades were detected, corresponding to genera, species and subspecies. A significantly supported branching pattern was obtained for members of the genus Nomascus but not for the genus Hylobates. The phylogenetic relationships among the four genera were also not well resolved. Nevertheless, the new data permitted the estimation of divergence ages for all taxa for the first time and showed that most lineages emerged during four short time periods. In the first, between ~6.7 and ~8.3 mya, the four gibbon genera diverged from each other. In the second (~3.0 - ~3.9 mya) and in the third period (~1.3 - ~1.8 mya), Hylobates and Hoolock differentiated. Finally, between ~0.5 and ~1.1 mya, Hylobates lar diverged into subspecies. In contrast, differentiation of Nomascus into species and subspecies was a continuous and prolonged process lasting from ~4.2 until ~0.4 mya.
Although relationships among gibbon taxa on various levels remain unresolved, the present study provides a more complete view of the evolutionary and biogeographic history of the hylobatid family, and a more solid genetic basis for the taxonomic classification of the surviving taxa. We also show that mtDNA constitutes a useful marker for the accurate identification of individual gibbons, a tool which is urgently required to locate hunting hotspots and select individuals for captive breeding programs. Further studies including nuclear sequence data are necessary to completely understand the phylogeny and phylogeography of gibbons.
PMCID: PMC2841658  PMID: 20226039

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