Our closest relatives – a visual tour of the primates

By Ed Yong | March 17, 2011 5:00 pm

Few groups of animals hold such special significance for us as the primates – the apes, monkeys, lemurs and more. This is the group that we are a part of. Its members are familiar and charismatic, but our evolutionary history is tangled and occasionally controversial.

Now, Polina Perelman has provided the most comprehensive view of the primate family tree to date. Her team sequenced genes from over 186 species, representing 90% of all the genera that we know of. Her tree confirms some past ideas about primate evolution and clarifies other controversies. It’s a story of island conquests, shrinking bodies, tangled branches and ancient relics. This slide show tells that story.

Reference: Perelman P, Johnson WE, Roos C, Seuánez HN, Horvath JE, et al. (2011) A Molecular Phylogeny of Living Primates. PLoS Genet 7(3): e1001342.

Comments (8)

  1. Great idea! and fantastic show, I can’t wait to see the actual tree…

  2. The tree is in the paper, which is open access. When you see it, you’ll understand why I didn’t bother turning it into one of the images in the slide!

  3. Small nitpick, but your DOI link is incorrectly formatted. It links to dx.doi/org , which should be dx.doi.org . Notice the dot vs the slash.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up. Looking forward to reading the paper. :)

  4. kumasama

    There’s a mistake in your DOI link. It should be dx.doi.org, not dx.doi/org.

  5. Very enjoyable and educational, thanks, Ed.

  6. Jonas

    “A gland on the inside of their elbows secretes a poison that smells a bit like sweaty socks; the loris licks this gland, which gives it a toxic (and agonising) bite.”

    Sort of proves that evolution sometimes doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t it :P I’d wonder how the creationists would explain that. Did god find it funny to have Lorises lick their elbows? Are we humans supposed to be jealous because most of us can’t lick ours?

  7. In the 70′s, bird DNA was studied by splitting strands and mating them with other species. Heat the result until they come apart. The higher the temperature, the more closely related they are. Some surprises such as vultures are storks, and English house sparrows are finches. In retrospect, one sees similarities in behavior & form. DNA studies are incredibly powerful. But the hybridizations are news to me. Awesome! If you just sample a small portion of DNA, maybe ‘DNA test’ is overstated and you need to say ‘DNA quiz’.

  8. Simone

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