A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates
Comparative genomic analyses of primates offer considerable potential to define and understand the processes that mold, shape, and transform the human genome. However, primate taxonomy is both complex and controversial, with marginal unifying consensus of the evolutionary hierarchy of extant primate species. Here we provide new genomic sequence (~8 Mb) from 186 primates representing 61 (~90%) of the described genera, and we include outgroup species from Dermoptera, Scandentia, and Lagomorpha. The resultant phylogeny is exceptionally robust and illuminates events in primate evolution from ancient to recent, clarifying numerous taxonomic controversies and providing new data on human evolution. Ongoing speciation, reticulate evolution, ancient relic lineages, unequal rates of evolution, and disparate distributions of insertions/deletions among the reconstructed primate lineages are uncovered. Our resolution of the primate phylogeny provides an essential evolutionary framework with far-reaching applications including: human selection and adaptation, global emergence of zoonotic diseases, mammalian comparative genomics, primate taxonomy, and conservation of endangered species. Advances in human biomedicine, including those focused on changes in genes triggered or disrupted in development, resistance/susceptibility to infectious disease, cancers, mechanisms of recombination, and genome plasticity, cannot be adequately interpreted in the absence of a precise evolutionary context or hierarchy. However, little is known about the genomes of other primate species, a situation exacerbated by a paucity of nuclear molecular sequence data necessary to resolve the complexities of primate divergence over time. We overcome this deficiency by sequencing 54 nuclear gene regions from DNA samples representing ~90% of the diversity present in living primates. We conduct a phylogenetic analysis to determine the origin, evolution, patterns of speciation, and unique features in genome divergence among primate lineages. The resultant phylogenetic tree is remarkably robust and unambiguously resolves many long-standing issues in primate taxonomy. Our data provide a strong foundation for illuminating those genomic differences that are uniquely human and provide new insights on the breadth and richness of gene evolution across all primate lineages.