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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e61659. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061659. Print 2013.

Relatively recent evolution of pelage coloration in Colobinae: phylogeny and phylogeography of three closely related langur species.

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  • 1Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.


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.

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