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Cebus Phylogenetic Relationships: A Preliminary Reassessment of the Diversity of the Untufted Capuchin Monkeys


  • Contract grant sponsor: National Science Foundation, contract grant numbers: NSF-BCS 0833375, NSF DEB 0918748, NSF DGE-0549425, NSF EF-05318780; Contract grant sponsor: Contract grant sponsor: WSU/UW IGERT Program in Evolutionary Modeling (IPEM); contract grant sponsor: Uniting Biology and Math (UBM) undergraduate program; Contract grant sponsor: UCLA Center for Society and Genetics.

Correspondence to: Jean P. Boubli, Wildlife Conservation Society, Rua Jardim Botânico 674/sala 210, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22461-000 Brazil.


The untufted, or gracile, capuchin monkeys are currently classified in four species, Cebus albifrons, C. capucinus, C. olivaceus, and C. kaapori, with all but C. kaapori having numerous described subspecies. The taxonomy is controversial and their geographic distributions are poorly known. Cebus albifrons is unusual in its disjunct distribution, with a western and central Amazonian range, a separate range in the northern Andes in Colombia, and isolated populations in Trinidad and west of the Andes in Ecuador and northern Peru. Here we examine previous morphological and molecular hypotheses of the taxonomy and phylogeny of Cebus. We construct a time-calibrated phylogeny based upon mitochondrial DNA sequences from 50 Cebus samples from across their range. Our data indicate that untufted capuchins underwent a radiation at about 2 Ma, and quickly diversified in both the Andes and the Amazon. We provide a provisional reassessment for the taxonomy of untufted capuchins in the Amazon, the Llanos, the Andes, Trinidad, and Central America, splitting currently paraphyletic taxa into several species, including: at least two Amazonian species (C. yuracus and C. unicolor); a species from the Guiana Shield (most likely the same as Humboldt's C. albifrons); two northern Andean species, C. versicolor, C. cesarae; C. brunneus (with trinitatis a junior synonym) on the Venezuelan coast, and C. adustus in the region of Lake Maracaibo; C. capucinus in northwestern Ecuador and Colombia, and Panama; C. imitator in Central America; C. olivaceus and C. castaneus occupying a large part of the Guiana Shield; and C. kaapori in the eastern Amazon, south of the Rio Amazonas. More intensive and extensive geographic sampling is needed, including that for some subspecies not represented here. Taxa from the southwestern Amazon (yuracus, cuscinus, and unicolor) and the phylogenetic position of Humboldt's Simia albifrons from the Orinoco remain particularly poorly defined. Am. J. Primatol. 74:381–393, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.