First comparative study of primate morphological and molecular evolutionary rates including muscle data: Implications for the tempo and mode of primate and human evolution

Jan 1, 2013

Here we provide the first report about the rates of muscle evolution derived from Bayesian and parsimony cladistic analyses of primate higher-level phylogeny, and compare these rates with published rates of molecular evolution. It is commonly accepted that there is a 'general molecular slow-down of hominoids', but interestingly the rates of muscle evolution in the nodes leading and within the hominoid clade are higher than those in the vast majority of other primate clades. The rate of muscle evolution at the node leading to Homo (1.77) is higher than that at the nodes leading to Pan (0.89) and particularly to Gorilla (0.28). Notably, the rates of muscle evolution at the major euarchontan and primate nodes are different, but within each major primate clade (Strepsirrhini, Platyrrhini, Cercopithecidae and Hominoidea) the rates at the various nodes, and particularly at the nodes leading to the higher groups (i.e. including more than one genera), are strikingly similar. We explore the implications of these new data for the tempo and mode of primate and human evolution.