The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Phylogenetic position of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey based on whole mitochondrial genomes

ANTHONY DI FIORE1, FANNY CORNEJO2, PAULO B. CHAVES3, SAM SHANEE4, CHRISTOPHER A. SCHMITT5, LILIANA CORTÉS-ORTIZ6, CHRISTIAN ROOS7 and VÍCTOR PACHECO2.

1Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, 2Museo de Historia Natural, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru, 3Department of Anthropology and New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York University, 4Director, Neotropical Primate Conservation, UK, 5Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, 6Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 7Primate Genetics Laboratory, Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Göttingen, Germany

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The yellow-tailed woolly monkey, Lagothrix flavicauda, is an atelid primate endemic to montane forests in northern Perú and has long been considered critically endangered. In recent years, its phylogenetic position and taxonomic status have been controversial. While an early comprehensive review (Fooden 1963) considered the yellow-tailed woolly monkey as one of two allopatric species of Lagothrix, a cladistic analysis of craniodental characters (Groves 2001) elevated the taxon to its own monotypic genus, under the resurrected name Oreonax, and considered it a sister taxon to spider monkeys (Ateles) rather than Lagothrix. However, a recent reanalysis argued that the craniodental evidence is insufficient to warrant assigning this primate to a distinct genus (Rosenberger and Matthews 2008), and other morphometric studies have confirmed a closer relationship between L. flavicauda and other woolly monkeys instead of Ateles (e.g., Paredes 2003).

Using complete mitochondrial genome sequences, we provide the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of the position of yellow-tailed woolly monkeys. Bayesian, likelihood, and parsimony analyses all support a monophyletic Lagothrix that includes L. flavicauda. Additionally, sequence data from the mtDNA COII region show that genetic distances between L. flavicauda and other Lagothrix from across the genus' geographic distribution fall within the range of between-species divergences seen in both Alouatta and Ateles at the same locus. Our results confirm a position for the yellow-tailed woolly monkey within Lagothrix, recommending that Oreonax be formally considered a synonym. This revision in taxonomic status does not change the dire conservation threats facing this primate in Perú.

This project was supported by New York University and the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology

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