Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Genetic substructure in cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) on the island of Mauritius

Lisa M Ogawa and Eric J Vallender*

Author Affiliations

New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, MA 01772, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2014, 15:748  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-748

Published: 31 August 2014



Nonhuman primates are commonly used in biomedical research as animal models of human disease and behavior. Compared to common rodent models, nonhuman primates are genetically, physiologically, behaviorally and neurologically more similar to humans owing to more recent shared ancestry and therefore provide the advantage of greater translational validity in preclinical studies. The cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is one of the most commonly used nonhuman primates in academic and industry settings, yet population genetic research has revealed significant substructure throughout the species distribution that may confound studies. Cynomolgus monkeys introduced to Mauritius specifically have previously been thought to maintain the least genetic heterogeneity of all cynomolgus monkeys, although recent work, including work from our lab, suggests macaques from Mauritius too may harbor cryptic substructure.


To evaluate putative substructure in Mauritian cynomolgus macaques, we designed a panel of 96 single nucleotide polymorphisms based on preliminary findings from previous work to screen 246 of cynomolgus monkeys from two primary suppliers. Results from this study support substructure in Mauritian macaques and suggest a minimum of two populations and maybe three on Mauritius, with moderate admixture.


These findings inform the natural history of these monkeys suggesting either a previously unrecognized physical or ecological barrier to gene flow on Mauritius and/or the breakdown of historic substructure resulting from the history of macaque introduction to the island. These findings are relevant to ongoing research using these models in part because of increased appreciation of segregating common variation with functional effects and may be used to better inform animal selection in preclinical research.