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J Hum Evol. 2004 Feb;46(2):223-37.

Sex chromosome phylogenetics indicate a single transition to terrestriality in the guenons (tribe Cercopithecini).

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Department of Anthropology, New York University, NY 10003, USA.


This is the first molecular study to trace the evolutionary transition in substrate preference across a primate radiation. We surveyed 20 guenons (tribe Cercopithecini) and 4 outgroup taxa for two Y-chromosomal genes, TSPY ( approximately 2240 bp) and SRY ( approximately 780 bp), and one X-chromosomal intergenic region ( approximately 1600 bp) homologous to a fragment of human Xq13.3. Parsimony and maximum likelihood analyses of the sex chromosomal datasets consistently cluster the three terrestrial taxa, Cercopithecus aethiops, Cercopithecus lhoesti, and Erythrocebus patas, into a group that is reciprocally monophyletic with a clade of arboreal Cercopithecus spp. Given that the common ancestor of the two clades was most likely an arboreal taxon, this phylogenetic pattern suggests the transition to terrestriality occurred only once among the extant guenons. This pattern also indicates that the genus Cercopithecus is paraphyletic, as presently defined, and calls for taxonomic revision so that the nomen describes a strictly monophyletic group. We outline four acceptable taxonomic schemes and suggest that the most appropriate is to reassign C. aethiops, C. lhoesti, and E. patas to the resurrected genus Chlorocebus. Finally, while the phylogeny and taxonomy of terrestrial guenons were the focus of this study, the X-chromosome sequences presented here represent the first molecular evidence to unambiguously place Allenopithecus nigroviridis as the basal lineage of the tribe Cercopithecini.

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