International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 1083–1106 | Cite as

Molecular Phylogenetics and Chronometrics of Tarsiidae Based on 12S mtDNA Haplotypes: Evidence for Miocene Origins of Crown Tarsiers and Numerous Species within the Sulawesian Clade

  • Myron Shekelle
  • Rudolf Meier
  • Ian Wahyu
  • Wirdateti
  • Nelson Ting


We report new mitochondrial DNA sequence data from tarsiers sampled from several populations, including the extreme northeast and southwest of the range of the Tarsius tarsier species complex, the most extensive sampling ever reported for this taxon. Our results provide the opportunity to produce the first ever molecular chronometric analysis of Tarsiidae. These results date the age of crown tarsiers, minimally, to the middle Miocene, and each of the 3 tarsier species groups, Tarsius bancanus, T. syrichta, and the T. tarsier complex, to the early or middle Miocene. Thus, each of these 3 species has evolved in isolation for a period of time that is consistent with that which would be expected for multiple speciation events. Our analysis of the Tarsius tarsier complex reveals 5 subclades, each of which is interpreted to represent a haplogroup at, or above, the species level, a result that is consistent with current hypotheses about numerous cryptic species within this species complex. The implications for conservation within the Sulawesi biogeographic region are that Sulawesi is subdivided into numerous subregions of endemism and that, by extrapolating the example of cryptic tarsier species to other taxa, biodiversity may be underestimated by an order of magnitude. The practical realties of conservation in Sulawesi are such that it is most reasonable to assume that anthropogenic extinctions are occurring, and that some species will go extinct before they have even been identified.


Biodiversity Biogeography Conservation Cryptic species Dispersal Endemism Phylogeography Sulawesi Tarsius Vicariance 



This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. INT 0107277 to M. Shekelle, and grants from the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, the Gibbon Foundation, and Primate Conservation, Inc. to M. Shekelle. The work was also supported by a SPRINT fellowship from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research to M. Shekelle and R. Meier. Noviar Andayani of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies, University of Indonesia, and the Indonesian Institute for Science provided sponsorship in Indonesia for M. Shekelle. The Indonesian Department of Forestry provided permits for conducting research in conservation areas and for trapping tarsiers. We thank 2 anonymous reviewers for numerous comments that greatly improved our manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Myron Shekelle
    • 1
  • Rudolf Meier
    • 2
  • Ian Wahyu
    • 2
  • Wirdateti
    • 3
  • Nelson Ting
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biology & Museum of Vertebrate BiologyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Zoological Division, Indonesian Institute of SciencesCibinongIndonesia
  4. 4.Department of Anthropology and Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative GenomicsUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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