, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 209-224,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Feb 2011

Comparing chromosomal and mitochondrial phylogenies of the Indriidae (Primates, Lemuriformes)


The Malagasy primate family Indriidae comprises three genera with up to 19 species. Cytogenetic and molecular phylogenies of the Indriidae have been performed with special attention to the genus Propithecus. Comparative R-banding and FISH with human paints were applied to karyotypes of representatives of all three genera and confirmed most of the earlier R-banding results. However, additional chromosomal rearrangements were detected. A reticulated and a cladistic phylogeny, the latter including hemiplasies, have been performed. Cladistic analysis of cytogenetic data resulted in a phylogenetic tree revealing (1) monophyly of the family Indriidae, (2) monophyly of the genus Avahi, (3) sister–group relationships between Propithecus diadema and Propithecus edwardsi, and (4) the grouping of the latter with Indri indri, Propithecus verreauxi, and Propithecus tattersalli, and thus suggesting paraphyly of the genus Propithecus. A molecular phylogeny based on complete mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences of 16 species indicated some identical relationships, such as the monophyly of Avahi and the sister–group relationships of the eastern (P. diadema and P. edwardsi) to the western Propithecus species (P. verreauxi, Propithecus coquereli, and P. tattersalli). However, the main difference between the molecular and cytogenetic phylogenies consists in an early divergence of Indri in the molecular phylogeny while in the chromosomal phylogeny it is nested within Propithecus. The similarities and differences between molecular and cytogenetic phylogenies in relation to data on the species’ geographic distributions and mating systems allow us to propose a scenario of the evolution of Indriidae. Chromosomal and molecular processes alone or in combination created a reproductive barrier that was then followed by further speciation processes.

Responsible Editor: Fengtang Yang