Human Genetics

, Volume 113, Issue 6, pp 493–501 | Cite as

Chromosomal phylogeny and evolution of gibbons (Hylobatidae)

  • Stefan Müller
  • Melanie Hollatz
  • Johannes Wienberg
Original Investigation


Although human and gibbons are classified in the same primate superfamily (Hominoidae), their karyotypes differ by extensive chromosome reshuffling. To date, there is still limited understanding of the events that shaped extant gibbon karyotypes. Further, the phylogeny and evolution of the twelve or more extant gibbon species (lesser apes, Hylobatidae) is poorly understood, and conflicting phylogenies have been published. We present a comprehensive analysis of gibbon chromosome rearrangements and a phylogenetic reconstruction of the four recognized subgenera based on molecular cytogenetics data. We have used two different approaches to interpret our data: (1) a cladistic reconstruction based on the identification of ancestral versus derived chromosome forms observed in extant gibbon species; (2) an approach in which adjacent homologous segments that have been changed by translocations and intra-chromosomal rearrangements are treated as discrete characters in a parsimony analysis (PAUP). The orangutan serves as an "outgroup", since it has a karyotype that is supposed to be most similar to the ancestral form of all humans and apes. Both approaches place the subgenus Bunopithecus as the most basal group of the Hylobatidae, followed by Hylobates, with Symphalangus and Nomascus as the last to diverge. Since most chromosome rearrangements observed in gibbons are either ancestral to all four subgenera or specific for individual species and only a few common derived rearrangements at subsequent branching points have been recorded, all extant gibbons may have diverged within relatively short evolutionary time. In general, chromosomal rearrangements produce changes that should be considered as unique landmarks at the divergence nodes. Thus, molecular cytogenetics could be an important tool to elucidate phylogenies in other species in which speciation may have occurred over very short evolutionary time with not enough genetic (DNA sequence) and other biological divergence to be picked up.


Reciprocal Translocation Chromosome Painting Chromosome Form Short Evolutionary Time Ancestral Karyotype 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Wi 970/6–1).

Supplementary material

Supplementary 1 Summary of all observed adjacent CSHs in the karyotypes of the four gibbon species and the orangutan

supp1.pdf (15 kb)
(PDF 16 KB)

Supplementary 2 Presence (“1) or absence (“0”) of each observed adjacent CSHs in the karyotypes of the four gibbon species and the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus, PPY; B. hoolock, BHO; H. lar, HLA; S. syndactylus, SSY; N. concolor, NCO)

supp2.pdf (27 kb)
(PDF 28 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Müller
    • 1
  • Melanie Hollatz
    • 1
  • Johannes Wienberg
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für Anthropologie und Humangenetik, Department Biologie IILudwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Human GeneticsGSF—National Research Center for Environment and HealthMunichGermany

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