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Am J Primatol. 2001 Jan;53(1):1-17.

Phylogenetic history of sifakas (Propithecus: lemuriformes) derived from mtDNA sequences.

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  • 1Anthropologisches Institut, Universit├Ąt Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


The sifakas (Propithecus) include three species containing up to 10 described subspecies, whose evolutionary relationships remain contentious. In particular, it is unclear whether P. verreauxi deckeni and P.v. coronatus populations are differentiated at the subspecific level. Furthermore, the taxonomic status of the recently discovered P. tattersalli and its phylogenetic position also require further examination. About 2,400 bp of mitochondrial DNA sequence data from part of the COIII gene, together with complete genes for ND3, ND4L, ND4, and five tRNAs, were used to clarify relationships among Propithecus species and subspecies. All analyses group Avahi as the sister group to all sifakas. P. diadema is placed as a sister group to all other Propithecus. Among the remaining sifakas, one subclade is formed by Puv. coquereli and P. tattersalli, while P.v. verreauxi, P.v. deckeni, and P.v. coronatus form the second subclade. All analyses fail to resolve coronatus and P.v. deckeni into separate monophyletic lineages. Based on pairwise distance comparisons and tree topology, we conclude that P. tattersalli does not represent a distinct species and that P.v. deckeni and P.v. coronatus do not deserve subspecific rank. On the other hand, our analyses indicate that P.v. coquereli may well represent a separate species.

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