Relative position of the cheirogaleidae in strepsirhine phylogeny: A comparison of morphological and molecular methods and results



An examination of previous morphological and molecular studies of strepsirhine systematics suggests a conflict between the two types of data. Cladistic analyses of morphological data have indicated that the Malagasy primate family Cheirogaleidae is the sister taxon of the Afro-Asian lorisiforms and that together, cheirogaleids and lorisiforms comprise a monophyletic clade that excludes the Malagasy lemuriforms. Molecular studies, on the other hand, have consistently found that cheirogaleids and lemuriforms together are monophyletic to the exclusion of lorisiforms. Both types of studies, however, have suffered from methodological weaknesses: the morphological studies looked at too few characters and the molecular studies looked at too few taxa.

This study examines a large and diverse morphological data set as well as molecular data from a comprehensive sample of strepsirhine taxa. The data sets are considered independently and jointly. When they are analyzed independently, the morphological data give weak support, and the molecular data strong support, to the hypothesis of Malagasy primate monophyly. When the two data sets are combined in a single analysis, the results are decisive. The “total evidence” approach yields compelling support to the hypothesis that cheirogaleids and remaining Malagasy lemuriforms comprise a monophyletic assemblage that excludes lorisiforms. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.