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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Flying lemurs – The 'flying tree shrews'? Molecular cytogenetic evidence for a Scandentia-Dermoptera sister clade

Wenhui Nie1, Beiyuan Fu2, Patricia CM O'Brien2, Jinhuan Wang1, Weiting Su1, Alongkoad Tanomtong3, Vitaly Volobouev4, Malcolm A Ferguson-Smith2 and Fengtang Yang5*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan 650223, People's Republic of China

2 Cambridge Resource Centre for Comparative Genomics, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK

3 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen 40002, Thailand

4 Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Origine, Structure et Evolution de la Biodiversité, rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France

5 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1SA, UK

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BMC Biology 2008, 6:18  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-18

Published: 1 May 2008

Abstract

Background

Flying lemurs or Colugos (order Dermoptera) represent an ancient mammalian lineage that contains only two extant species. Although molecular evidence strongly supports that the orders Dermoptera, Scandentia, Lagomorpha, Rodentia and Primates form a superordinal clade called Supraprimates (or Euarchontoglires), the phylogenetic placement of Dermoptera within Supraprimates remains ambiguous.

Results

To search for cytogenetic signatures that could help to clarify the evolutionary affinities within this superordinal group, we have established a genome-wide comparative map between human and the Malayan flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus) by reciprocal chromosome painting using both human and G. variegatus chromosome-specific probes. The 22 human autosomal paints and the X chromosome paint defined 44 homologous segments in the G. variegatus genome. A putative inversion on GVA 11 was revealed by the hybridization patterns of human chromosome probes 16 and 19. Fifteen associations of human chromosome segments (HSA) were detected in the G. variegatus genome: HSA1/3, 1/10, 2/21, 3/21, 4/8, 4/18, 7/15, 7/16, 7/19, 10/16, 12/22 (twice), 14/15, 16/19 (twice). Reverse painting of G. variegatus chromosome-specific paints onto human chromosomes confirmed the above results, and defined the origin of the homologous human chromosomal segments in these associations. In total, G. variegatus paints revealed 49 homologous chromosomal segments in the HSA genome.

Conclusion

Comparative analysis of our map with published maps from representative species of other placental orders, including Scandentia, Primates, Lagomorpha and Rodentia, suggests a signature rearrangement (HSA2q/21 association) that links Scandentia and Dermoptera to one sister clade. Our results thus provide new evidence for the hypothesis that Scandentia and Dermoptera have a closer phylogenetic relationship to each other than either of them has to Primates.