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Syst Biol. 2019 Jan 1;68(1):78-92. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syy046.

Early Arrival and Climatically-Linked Geographic Expansion of New World Monkeys from Tiny African Ancestors.

Silvestro D1,2,3,4,5, Tejedor MF1,3,4,6,7,5, Serrano-Serrano ML2, Loiseau O2,4, Rossier V2,4, Rolland J2,8, Zizka A1,3, Höhna S9, Antonelli A1,3,10,11,12, Salamin N2,4,12.

Author information

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Carl Skottsbergs gata 22B, Gothenburg 41319, Sweden.
Department of Computational Biology, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Center, Carl Skottsbergs gata 22B, Gothenburg 41319, Sweden.
Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Quartier Sorge, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Instituto Patagónico de Geología y Paleontología (CCT CONICET-CENPAT), Boulevard Almirante Brown 2915, 9120 Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina.
Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Sede Trelew, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia 'San Juan Bosco', 9100 Trelew, Chubut, Argentina.
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 2212 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC Canada.
Division of Evolutionary Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Großhaderner Straße 2, 82152 Munich, Germany.
Gothenburg Botanical Garden, Carl Skottsbergs gata 22A, 413 19 Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
These authors are severs as a co-last authorship.


New World Monkeys (NWM) (platyrrhines) are one of the most diverse groups of primates, occupying today a wide range of ecosystems in the American tropics and exhibiting large variations in ecology, morphology, and behavior. Although the relationships among the almost 200 living species are relatively well understood, we lack robust estimates of the timing of origin, ancestral morphology, and geographic range evolution of the clade. Herein, we integrate paleontological and molecular evidence to assess the evolutionary dynamics of extinct and extant platyrrhines. We develop novel analytical frameworks to infer the evolution of body mass, changes in latitudinal ranges through time, and species diversification rates using a phylogenetic tree of living and fossil taxa. Our results show that platyrrhines originated 5-10 million years earlier than previously assumed, dating back to the Middle Eocene. The estimated ancestral platyrrhine was small-weighing 0.4 kg-and matched the size of their presumed African ancestors. As the three platyrrhine families diverged, we recover a rapid change in body mass range. During the Miocene Climatic Optimum, fossil diversity peaked and platyrrhines reached their widest latitudinal range, expanding as far South as Patagonia, favored by warm and humid climate and the lower elevation of the Andes. Finally, global cooling and aridification after the middle Miocene triggered a geographic contraction of NWM and increased their extinction rates. These results unveil the full evolutionary trajectory of an iconic and ecologically important radiation of monkeys and showcase the necessity of integrating fossil and molecular data for reliably estimating evolutionary rates and trends.

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