Journal of Genetics

, 89:393 | Cite as

Molecular systematics and conservation of the langurs and leaf monkeys of South Asia



Numerous morphology-based classification schemes have been proposed for langurs and leaf monkeys of South Asia but there is very little agreement between them. An incorrect classification scheme when used as a basis for biogeographic studies can support erroneous hypotheses. Further, lack of taxonomic resolution will also confound conservation efforts, given that conservation biologists use traditional morphology-based-classification schemes to prioritize species for conservation. Here, I have revisited recent molecular phylogenetic studies done on langurs and leaf monkeys of South Asia. Results from these studies are in turn used to derive a rational and scientific basis for prioritizing species for conservation. Molecular data support the classification of langurs of the Indian subcontinent—Hanuman, Nilgiri and purple-faced langurs—in the genus Semnopithecus, whereas Phayre’s leaf monkey along with other Southeast Asian leaf monkeys form another distinct clade (Trachypithecus). The phylogenetic position of capped and golden langurs remains unresolved. Molecular data suggest that they are closely related to each other but this group might have evolved through past hybridization between Semnopithecus and Trachypithecus. Additionally, genetic data also support the splitting of the so-called Hanuman langurs into at least three species. The scores for taxonomic uniqueness of langurs and leaf monkeys of South Asia were revised using this molecular phylogeny-based classification. According to the revised scores, Phayres leaf monkey and golden langur are priority species for conservation followed by capped and Nilgiri langurs.


taxonomic uniqueness hybridization phylogeny Hanuman langur Semnopithecus Trachypithecus 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecological SciencesIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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