Colors of Primate Pelage: The Independent Evolution of Sexual Dichromatism in the Primate Order

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Thomas C. Wilson (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
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Abstract: There is a large body of research describing the evolutionary importance of plumage coloration among avian species. However , similar datasets are lacking for mammalian pelage. Furthermore , very little research has examined the variations of nonhuman primate (NHP) pelage coloration and patterning. Primatologists have noted conspicuous differences in coloration and patterning among NHPs , including neo-natal coats and sexual dichromatism. Sexual dichromatism refers to the differences in pelage coloration between the sexes of a single species. Sexual dichromatism is rare , but found among some species of lemurs , New World monkeys , and lesser apes. To illuminate the genetic mechanism of NHP sexual dichromatism , I examined published amino acid sequences for the MC1R and OCA2 genes of nine NHP species across multiple genera. This dataset incorporated sexually dichromatic NHPs including white-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus leucogenys) , lar gibbons (Hylobates lar) , and black howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya). I also examined closely allied monochromatic NHPs including brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) , long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) , black snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) , Mueller's gibbon (Hylobates muelleri) , mantled howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) , and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Comparisons across these species suggest the MC1R gene does not play an important role in pelage coloration. In contrast , the OCA2 sequence of N. leucogenys differed , on average , ~16% from the three monochromatic species. Furthermore , the OCA2 sequences exhibit a low phylogenetic signal , suggesting that this gene may regulate dichromatic pelage. To expand these genetic datasets , I analyzed socioecological variables among these species and found that smaller home-range sizes and dispersal of both sexes may have played a role in the evolution of dichromatic pelage in NHPs.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Anthropolog, Primatology, Nonhuman Primates

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