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Keywords:

  • Molecular clock;
  • molecular systematics;
  • macaques

Abstract

Recombinant DNA methods have made accessible the nuclear and organelle genomes of a vast array of plant and animal species.1–3 Although evolutionary biologists and anthropologists have begun to exploit the full range of these methods, a disproportionate share of this research has centered on the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA). Because of its small size, conserved organization, mode of inheritance, and combination of rapidly and slowly evolving regions, mtDNA (Fig. 1) has appeared in many ways to be the ideal molecule for evolutionary studies of primates.4,5 However, recent research on higher primates raises serious concerns about the utility of this molecule for evolutionary analysis in the absence of parallel data from the nuclear genome.6–8 These studies suggest that we need to rethink our research strategies and define more clearly what mtDNA can be used for in the study of primate evolution.