Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Hum Evol. 2007 May;52(5):490-503. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Adaptation and functional integration in primate phylogenetics.

Author information

Department of Anthropology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.


In two areas of phylogenetics, contrary predictions have been developed and maintained for character analysis and weighting. With regard to adaptation, many have argued that adaptive characters are poorly suited to phylogenetic analysis because of a propensity for homoplasy, while others have argued that complex adaptive characters should be given high weight because homoplasy in complex characters is unlikely. Similarly, with regard to correlated sets of characters, one point of view is that such sets should be collapsed into a single character-a single piece of phylogenetic evidence. Another point of view is that a suite of correlated characters should be emphasized in phylogenetics, again because recurrence of detailed similarity in the same suite of features is unlikely. In this paper, I discuss the theoretical background of adaptation and functional integration with respect to phylogenetic systematics of primates. Several character examples are reviewed with regard to their functional morphology and phylogenetic signal: postorbital structures, tympanic morphology, fusion of the mandibular symphysis, the tooth comb, strepsirrhine talar morphology, and the prehensile tail. It is clear when considering characters such as these that some characters are synapomorphic of major clades and at the same time functionally important. This appears particularly to be the case when characters are integrated into a complex and maintained as stable configurations. Rather than being simply a problem in character analysis, processes of integration may help to explain the utility of phylogenetically informative characters. On the other hand, the character examples also highlight the difficulty in forming a priori predictions about a character's phylogenetic signal. Explanations of patterns of character evolution are often clade-specific, which does not allow for a simple framework of character selection and/or weighting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center