Hominids: Molecular Phylogenetics


Molecular relationships among the great apes (including Homo) and molecular estimates of the times of their divergences.

Keywords: primates; great apes; molecular relationships; divergence times

Figure 1.

Simiiformes (monkeys, lesser and greater apes and Homo) split into Platyrrhini (New World monkeys, here represented by the pale‐fronted capuchin) and Catarrhini (New World monkeys, lesser and greater apes and Homo). Catarrhini split into Cercopithecoidea (e.g. baboons, macaques) and Hominoidea. Hominoidea split into Hylobatidae (lesser apes: gibbons and siamangs) and the Hominidae. Hominidae encompasses six extant species, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, gorilla, common and pygmy chimpanzees and Homo. The gorilla, the two chimpanzees and Homo are included in the Homininae, the two orangutans in the Ponginae.

Figure 2.

The fossil record of the Perissodactyla, the Artiodactyla and the Carnivora is more detailed than that of many other mammalian orders (including the Primates). The three paleontological/molecular calibration points AC‐60, ER‐55 and OP‐30 have been developed with the particular aim of estimating divergence times among and within mammalian orders that have a scantier fossil record. Estimates based on these three calibration points suggest that higher mammals (Placentalia) arose 130–135 MY before present. The lengths of the different branches in the tree are proportional to the number of molecular changes along them. Among the Hominidae the branch containing the two orangutans is longer than that of the Homininae (Gorilla, Pan and Homo). As the differences on the orangutan and Homininae branches have accumulated over the same period of time, the differences in branch length indicate that the rate of molecular evolution (i.e. the rate of nucleotide substitution) has been faster on the branches leading to the orangutans than on those leading to the other hominids. The three calibration points used, AC‐60, ER‐55 and OP‐30, are marked with filled arrowheads. Unfilled arrowheads show the estimated times of evolutionary divergences within the Simiiformes. Filled and numbered arrowheads within the Simiiformes show the position of different fossils (1–6). The names of these fossils and their age is given to the left.


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Arnason, Ulfur, and Kullberg, Morgan(Apr 2008) Hominids: Molecular Phylogenetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005142.pub2]