• nucleotide diversity;
  • phylogenetic tree;
  • regional variation


DNA was extracted from the buffy coats or serum of 212 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) sampled throughout the species' geographic range. An 835 base pair (bp) fragment of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was amplified from each sample, sequenced, aligned, and used to estimate genetic distances from which phylogenetic trees were constructed. A tree that included sequences from rhesus macaques whose exact origins in China are known was used to determine the regional origin of clusters of haplotypes, or haplogroups, defined by the trees. Indian rhesus sequences formed one large homogeneous haplogroup with very low levels of nucleotide diversity and no geographic structure, and a second much smaller haplogroup apparently derived from Burma. The sequences from Burma and eastern and western China were quite divergent from those in the major haplogroup of India. Each of these sequences formed separate clusters of haplotypes that exhibited far greater nucleotide diversity and/or population structure. Correspondingly, sequences from Indian rhesus macaques that are considered to represent different subspecies (based on morphological differences) were intermingled in the tree, while those from China reflected some, but not all, aspects of subspecific taxonomy. Regional variation contributed 72% toward the paired differences between sequences in an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), and the average differences between the populations of eastern and western China were also statistically significant. These results suggest that Indian and Chinese rhesus macaques were reproductively isolated during most, if not all, of the Pleistocene, during which time Indian rhesus macaques experienced a severe genetic bottleneck, and that some gene flow westward into India was subsequently reestablished. Samples from breeding centers in three different provinces of China included sequences from rhesus macaques that originated in both eastern (or southern) and western China, confirming anecdotal reports that regional breeding centers in China exchange breeding stock. Genetic differences among rhesus macaques (even those acquired from the same regional breeding center) that originate in different geographic regions and are employed as subjects in biomedical experiments can contribute to phenotypic differences in the traits under study. Am. J. Primatol. 65:1–25, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.