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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A multilocus phylogeny reveals deep lineages within African galagids (Primates: Galagidae)

Luca Pozzi123*, Todd R Disotell12 and Judith C Masters4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anthropology, Center for the Study of Human Origins, New York University, New York, New York, USA

2 New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York, USA

3 Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany

4 African Primate Initiative for Ecology and Speciation, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-72

Published: 2 April 2014



Bushbabies (Galagidae) are among the most morphologically cryptic of all primates and their diversity and relationships are some of the most longstanding problems in primatology. Our knowledge of galagid evolutionary history has been limited by a lack of appropriate molecular data and a paucity of fossils. Most phylogenetic studies have produced conflicting results for many clades, and even the relationships among genera remain uncertain. To clarify galagid evolutionary history, we assembled the largest molecular dataset for galagos to date by sequencing 27 independent loci. We inferred phylogenetic relationships using concatenated maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses, and also coalescent-based species tree methods to account for gene tree heterogeneity due to incomplete lineage sorting.


The genus Euoticus was identified as sister taxon to the rest of the galagids and the genus Galagoides was not recovered as monophyletic, suggesting that a new generic name for the Zanzibar complex is required. Despite the amount of genetic data collected in this study, the monophyly of the family Lorisidae remained poorly supported, probably due to the short internode between the Lorisidae/Galagidae split and the origin of the African and Asian lorisid clades. One major result was the relatively old origin for the most recent common ancestor of all living galagids soon after the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.


Using a multilocus approach, our results suggest an early origin for the crown Galagidae, soon after the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, making Euoticus one of the oldest lineages within extant Primates. This result also implies that one – or possibly more – stem radiations diverged in the Late Eocene and persisted for several million years alongside members of the crown group.

Concatenation; Species tree; Divergence times; Nuclear DNA; Eocene-Oligocene boundary; Strepsirhini; Lorisoidea