The Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus, Dermoptera): The Primates’ Gliding Sister?
MetadataShow full item record
Although a general agreement on the major groups of eutherian orders and their phylogenetic affiliations is emerging, the evolutionary affiliations among the members constituting these groups are still subject to debate. A prominent example is the recently published molecular evidence that challenges the long assumed monophyly of primates, displaying the colugo or flying lemur (Cynocephalus, Dermoptera) as a sister to anthropoid primates (Arnason et al. 2002) and positioning them after the prosimian primates (tarsiers and strepsirhines) split off. The phylogenetic analysis of the complete mitochondrial (mt) genome sequence of Cynocephalus variegatus presented in this study first appears to corroborate interpretations of primates as a paraphyletic group. However, more detailed analyses disclosed that mt nucleotide composition and consequently amino acid (AA) composition varied considerably among the species analyzed. This led us to assume that the flying lemur may be incorrectly grouped with anthropoids on the basis of similar mt nucleotide and AA compositions, rather than reflecting the true evolutionary relationship. To reanalyze the flying lemur’s evolutionary association with other eutherian orders from a completely different molecular perspective, a molecular cladistic approach was applied. To this end, we determined the presence/absence pattern of transposable elements that provide a nearly homoplasy-free and copious source of molecular evolutionary markers, with well-defined character polarity. We could identify transposable elements, both on a multilocus and single-locus level, being present in all extant primate infraorders but absent in the flying lemur, thus clearly supporting the monophyly of primates by retropositional evidence.