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Friday, April 15, 2011

New and improved primate family tree

Jill Pecon-Slattery of the National Cancer Institute has led an international team of biologists in refining our family tree. The result, pictured below, is the most comprehensive genetic comparison to date. In case you’re having difficulty locating humans, we’re ‘Homo’, in the purple color group.

The molecular phylogeny of 61 Primate genera, two Dermoptera genera, and one Scandentia genus and rooted by Lagomorpha.
Credit: Polina Perelman, Warren E. Johnson, Christian Roos, Hector N. Seuánez, Julie E. Horvath, Miguel A. M. Moreira, Bailey Kessing, Joan Pontius, Melody Roelke, Yves Rumpler, Maria Paula C. Schneider, Artur Silva, Stephen J. O'Brien, Jill Pecon-Slattery. A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates. PLoS Genetics, 2011; 7 (3): e1001342 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001342

The authors sequenced 54 nuclear genes from 186 different primates to come up with their chart. The differences and similarities between species not only demonstrate current levels of relatedness, but also shed light on the evolutionary history of primates, a topic of great interest to us fellow primates. Perhaps more importantly, the information could yield insight into our susceptibility to certain pathogens or environmental hazards.