, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 381-420

Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Monkeys (Ateles) Based on Mitochondrial DNA Variation

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Abstract

Our goal was to determine phylogenetic relationships among geographically and taxonomically distinct haplotypes of spider monkeys (Ateles) based on DNA sequence variation for the mitochondrial DNA control region and cytochrome c oxidase subunit II gene. We obtained samples from most previously recognized subspecies of Ateles, ranging from Central America throughout the Amazon Basin, to determine phylogenetic relationships among racially recognized groups. Comparison of DNA sequences using both parsimony analysis and genetic distance analysis produced phylogenetic relationships that were very similar for each genetic region. We analyzed the phylograms produced, along with associated bootstrap support, confidence probabilities, and genetic distances between taxonomic groups, to identify four monophyletic species of Ateles: Ateles paniscus, composed of haplotypes from the northeastern Amazon Basin; A. belzebuth in the southern Amazon Basin; A. hybridus, located primarily along the Magdalena River valley of Colombia; and A. geoffroyi, which includes two former species: A. geoffroyi and A. fusciceps. This arrangement is contradictory to long-held taxonomies of Ateles based on pelage variation and is similar to a recent analysis based on craniodental variation. Results of this investigation suggest patterns of gene flow, evolutionary relationships, and speciation patterns that are more plausible than previous pelage-based taxonomies, which required seemingly impossible patterns of gene flow. Conservation efforts aimed at protecting Ateles, one of the Neotropics most endangered genera, will also benefit from the findings presented in this paper.