Primate Phylogenetics


Hypotheses of primate phylogenetic relationships have been greatly influenced by molecular systematic approaches. Improved methods of obtaining and amplifying deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from a greater number of sources from more species and subspecies, high‐throughput sequencing techniques, the characterization of genomic events such as the insertion of retrotransposons, along with new analytical techniques have allowed inferences to be drawn for most genus‐level branches of the primate phylogenetic tree.

Keywords: phylogeny; systematics; taxonomy; strepsirrhini; Haplorhini

Figure 1.

Two main hypotheses of primate subordinal relationships: (a) Prosimian/Anthropoid hypothesis and (b) Strepsirhine/Haplorhine hypothesis.

Figure 2.

Current consensus view of primate phylogeny derived from molecular analyses.



Chen F‐C and Li W‐H (2001) Genomic divergences between humans and other hominoids and the effective population size of the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. American Journal of Human Genetics 68: 444–456.

Murphy WJ, Eizirik E, Johnson WE et al. (2001) Molecular phylogenetics and the origins of placental mammals. Nature 409: 614–618.

Raaum RL, Sterner KN, Noviello CM, Disotell TR and Stewart C‐B (2005) Catarrhine primate divergence dates estimated from complete mitochondrial genomes: concordance with fossil and nuclear DNA evidence. Journal of Human Evolution 48: 237–257.

Ray DA, Xing J, Hedges DJ et al. (2005) Alu insertion loci and platyrrhine primate phylogeny. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35: 117–126.

Ray DA, Xing J, Salemm A‐H and Batzerm MA (2006) SINES of a Nearly perfect character. Systematic Biology 55: 928–935.

Schmitz J, Ohme M and Zischler H (2001) SINE insertions in cladistic analyses and the phylogenetic affiliations of Tarsius bancanus to other primates. Genetics 157: 777–784.

Schmitz J, Ohme M and Zischler H (2002) The complete mitochondrial sequence of Tarsius bancanus: evidence for an extensive nucleotide compositional plasticity of primate mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Biology and Evolution 19: 544–553.

Schneider H (2000) The current status of the New World monkey phylogeny. Anais de Academia Brasileira de Ciências 72: 165–172.

Stener KN, Raaum RL, Zhang Y‐P, Stewart C‐B and Disotell TR (2006) Mitochondrial data support an odd‐nosed colobine clade. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 1–7.

Xing J, Wang H, Zhang Y et al. (2007) A mobile element based evolutionary history of guenons (tribe Cercopithecini). BMC Biology 5: 5.

Yoder AD (1997) Back to the future: a synthesis of Strepsirhine systematics. Evolutionary Anthropology 6: 11–22.

Further Reading

Goodman M, Porter CA, Czelusniak J et al. (1998) Toward a phylogenetic classification of primates based on DNA evidence complemented by fossil evidence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 9: 585–598.

Purvis A (1995) A composite estimate of primate phylogeny. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 348: 405–421.

Stewart C‐B and Disotell TR (1998) Primate evolution – in and out of Africa. Current Biology 8: 582–588.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Disotell, Todd R(Mar 2008) Primate Phylogenetics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005833.pub2]