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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 14; 93(10): 5122–5126.

Ancient single origin for Malagasy primates.


We report new evidence that bears decisively on a long-standing controversy in primate systematics. DNA sequence data for the complete cytochrome b gene, combined with an expanded morphological data set, confirm the results of a previous study and again indicate that all extant Malagasy lemurs originated from a single common ancestor. These results, as well as those from other genetic studies, call for a revision of primate classifications in which the dwarf and mouse lemurs are placed within the Afro-Asian lorisiforms. The phylogenetic results, in agreement with paleocontinental data, indicate an African origin for the common ancestor of lemurs and lorises (the Strepsirrhini). The molecular data further suggest the surprising conclusion that lemurs began evolving independently by the early Eocene at the latest. This indicates that the Malagasy primate lineage is more ancient than generally thought and places the split between the two strepsirrhine lineages well before the appearance of known Eocene fossil primates. We conclude that primate origins were marked by rapid speciation and diversification sometime before the late Paleocene.

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