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Who is the closest extant cousin of humans? Total-evidence approach to hominid phylogenetics via simultaneous optimization

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J. R. Grehan & J. H. Schwartz (Journal of Biogeography, 2009, 36, 1823–1844) argued that humans (Homo) are more closely related to orangutans (Pongo) than to chimpanzees (Pan), and used this scenario to draw biogeographical conclusions about human origins. They discussed a contradiction between phenotypical and molecular results that has led to a debate about the reliability of genetic versus phenotypic data. The main aim of our study is to test the conflicting phylogenetic hypotheses by a total-evidence analysis based on simultaneous optimization of extensive phenotypic and molecular data sets. Our results supported the human–chimpanzee clade, without any phenotypical–molecular data conflict, as the same phylogeny emerged both from the total analysis and when the molecular and phenotypic data were analysed separately. Sensitivity analyses showed that the result was not dependent on the parameters chosen for character weighting.

Keywords: Cladistics; DNA; direct optimization; hominid evolution; morphology; phylogenetics; sensitivity analysis; total evidence

Document Type: Correspondence


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Publication date: 2011-04-01

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