• cytochrome b;
  • phylogeny;
  • phylogeography;
  • Saimiri


Squirrel monkeys (genus Saimiri) are distributed over a wide area encompassing the Amazon Basin: French Guiana, Suriname, and Guyana, together with Western Panama and Western Costa Rica. The genus Saimiri includes a complex of species and subspecies displaying considerable morphological variation. Taxonomic and systematic studies have identified, in this genus, one to seven species comprising up to 16 subspecies. The phylogenetic relationships between these taxa are poorly understood. Molecular markers have yielded a consistent framework for the systematics of Central and South American Saimiri, identifying four distinct clades: S. oerstedii, S. sciureus, S. boliviensis, and S. ustus. Here, we reconsider the phylogenetic and biogeographic history of Saimiri on the basis of mitochondrial (mtDNA) sequence data, focusing mostly on individuals originating from the Amazon Basin. We studied 32 monkeys with well-defined geographic origins and inferred the phylogenetic relationships between them on the basis of full-length cytochrome b gene nucleotide sequences. The high level of gene diversity observed (0.966) is consistent with the high level of behavioral and morphological variation observed across the geographic range of the genus: 20 mtDNA haplotypes were identified with a maximum divergence of 4.81% between S. b. boliviensis and S. ustus. In addition to confirming the existence of the four clades previously identified on the basis of molecular characters, we suggest several new lineages, including S. s. macrodon, S. s. albigena, S. s. cassiquiarensis, and S. s. collinsi. We also propose new patterns of dispersion and diversification for the genus Saimiri, and discuss the contribution of certain rivers and forest refuges to its structuring. Am. J. Primatol. 72:242–253, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.