A DNA phylogeny based on over 200 species of lemurs and related species is now available.Lemurs are part of the large group known as the strepsirrhine primates (yes, three r’s…)From the abstract of this paper, coming out in March in Genome Research:
… strepsirrhine primates are of great interest … due to their phylogenetic placement as the sister lineage to all other primates. Previous attempts to resolve the phylogeny of lemurs employed limited mitochondrial or small nuclear data sets, with many relationships poorly supported or entirely unresolved. We used genomic resources to develop 11 novel markers from nine chromosomes … Our phylogenetic analyses confirm hypotheses of lemuriform monophyly and provide robust resolution of the phylogenetic relationships among the five lemuriform families.
In addition to confirming and shoring up some of the internal relationships among the lemurs, the researchers claim that their techniques will be more broadly applicable in phylogenetic studies.
The ultimate goal of our approach was to design a method applicable to any clade-specific phylogenetic problem wherein at least one species offers genomic sequence. This strategy was tested in the evolutionarily diverse lemurs and was successful for resolving their evolutionary history. While we anticipate that our phylogenomic toolkit (the 11 newly resigned primer pairs and corresponding strepsirrhine genomic sequence) will be of use to other primatologists for genomic comparisons and for resolution of the evolutionary history of their study taxa, its application extends much further. This primer design approach can be applied to any organism with available genomic sequence for phylogenetic analyses, diversity assessments, or other molecular evolutionary comparisons across diverse taxa. Primer design in other nonmodel organisms will facilitate the exploration of more complete comparative genomics, and will lead to a better understanding of the tree of life.
“By throwing this much data at the problem, we have absolutely confirmed, beyond any statistical doubt, that the spectacular array of lemurs all descended from a single ancestral species,” according to co-author Anne Yoder, noting that lemurs account for about 20 percent of primate species and live on less than one percent of the earth’s surface. “It further highlights the importance of Madagascar as a cradle for biodiversity.”
Horvath, J.E., Weisrock, D.W., Embry, S.L., Fiorentino, I., Balhoff, J.P., Kappeler, P., Wray, G.A., Willard, H.F., Yoder, A.D. (2008). Development and application of a phylogenomic toolkit: Resolving the evolutionary history of Madagascar’s lemurs. Genome Research DOI: 10.1101/gr.7265208Press Release