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  • Cited by 22
  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: October 2009

4 - The phylogeny of the Cercopithecoidea



It is time for a fresh look at the phylogeny of the Old World monkeys. There have been recent attempts to analyse the group by molecular or chromosomal means, and it is time that “traditional” methods of analysis caught up, holding-out the prospect of new macroscopic diagnostic tools. The purpose of this chapter is to examine Cercopithecoid phylogeny by cladistic analysis, using primarily skull characters, but including other sources of evidence where these are available. The results should be regarded as preliminary, in that characters were taken from the literature and tested on specimens, rather than new characters being sought. However, a few new insights have emerged.

Traditionally, the Cercopithecoidea have been contained within a single family, Cercopithecidae, with two subfamilies, Colobinae and Cercopithecinae. The work of Benefit (1993) has established a second family, Victoriapithecidae, to include plesiomorphic early Miocene fossils. The Victoriapithecidae will not be further considered in the present review, which is concerned with reconstructing the phylogeny of extant cercopithecoids and their immediate fossil relatives.

Hill (1966, and elsewhere) supported upgrading the two extant subfamilies to family level. The differences are not extreme, but highly characteristic; adopting full family status for them would give more taxonomic flexibility within each to recognise fine degrees of relationship among genera (Groves, 1989). It is clear that the two form a clade with respect to the Victoriapithecidae.