Open Access Research article

Phylogenetic relationships between Hapalemur species and subspecies based on mitochondrial DNA sequences

Jean-Luc Fausser1, Prosper Prosper12, Giuseppe Donati3, Jean-Baptiste Ramanamanjato4 and Yves Rumpler1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut d'Embryologie, EA3428, 67085 Strasbourg, France

2 Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza, Tananarive, Madagascar

3 Dipartimento di Etologia, Ecologia ed Evoluzione, Unita di Antropologia, via S. Maria 55,1-56126 Pisa, Italy

4 QIT Madagascar Minerals S.A., Programme conservation Rehabilitation, Habitats et Espèces Fauniques, Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2002, 2:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-2-4

Published: 15 March 2002



Phylogenetic relationships of the genus Hapalemur remains controversial, particularly within the Hapalemur griseus species group. In order to obtain more information on the taxonomic status within this genus, and particularly in the cytogenetic distinct subspecies group of Hapalemur griseus, 357 bp sequence of cytochrome b and 438 bp of 12S mitochondrial DNAs were analyzed on a sample of animals captured in areas extending from the north to the south-east of Madagascar. This sample covers all cytogenetically defined types recognized of the genus Hapalemur.


Phylogenetic trees and distances analyses demonstrate a first emergence of Hapalemur simus followed by H. aureus which is the sister clade of the H. griseus subspecies. Hapalemur griseus is composed of 4 subspecies separated into two clades. The first contains H. g. griseus, H. g. alaotrensis and H. g. occidentalis. The second consists of H. g. meridionalis. A new chromosomal polymorphic variant from the region of Ranomafana, H. griseus ssp, has been analysed and was found in both clades.


Our results support the raising of H. g. meridionalis to the specific rank H. meridionalis, while neither cytogenetic nor molecular evidences support the raising of H. g. alaotrensis to a species rank despite its morphological characteristics. The new cytotype H. g. ssp which has been previously characterized by cytogenetic studies contains animals clustering either with the group of Hapalemur griseus griseus or with that of Hapalemur meridionalis. This suggests the existence of an ancestral polymorphism or an introgression of mitochondrial DNA between subspecies.