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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Sarah Elton

Bjarnason, A., Soligo, C. & Elton, S. (2017). Phylogeny, phylogenetic inference, and cranial evolution in pitheciids and Aotus. American Journal of Primatology 79(3): e22621.

Author(s) from Durham


Pitheciids, one of the major radiations of New World monkeys endemic to South and Central America, are distributed in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, and include Callicebus, Cacajao, Chiropotes, and Pithecia. Molecular phylogenetics strongly support pitheciid monophyly, whereas morphological analyses infer a range of phylogenies including a sister relationship between Aotus and Callicebus. We collected geometric morphometric cranial data from pitheciids and Aotus, and used cranial data for distance-based phylogenetic analysis and tests of phylogenetic signal. Phylogenetic analyses of pitheciids were repeated with Lagothrix, Callimico, and Saimiri outgroups for Procrustes shape with and without Aotus based on the whole cranium and six anatomical regions. All phylogenetic signal tests were significant, and tree lengths were shortest and had the least morphological change over the phylogeny for Procrustes residuals from the cranial base and palate. The majority of phylogenetic analyses of Procrustes shape for pitheciids without Aotus supported the molecular phylogeny, and with Aotus included the majority inferred an Aotus–Callicebus clade, although three analyses with Callimico as outgroup supported the molecular phylogeny. The morphological similarity of Aotus and Callicebus is likely a mix of plesiomorphy, allometry, and homoplasy, and future phylogenetic inference of living and extinct platyrrhine taxa should consider the impact of these factors alongside outgroup selection and cranial region.