Out of the Shadows: Multilocus Systematics and Biogeography of Night Monkeys Suggest a Central Amazonian Origin and a Very Recent Widespread Southeastward Expansion in South America

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Night monkeys (Aotus, Cebidae) are a widely distributed genus of Neotropical primates with a poorly understood taxonomy and biogeography. The number of species in the genus varies from one to nine, depending on the author, and there are at least 18 known karyotypes, varying from 2n = 46 to 2n = 58. Historically, night monkeys are divided into two species groups: red- and grey-necked groups from south and north of the Amazon-Solimões River, respectively. Here, we used 10 nuclear and 10 mitochondrial molecular markers from a wide taxonomic and geographic sample to infer phylogeny, divergence times, and biogeography of the genus. For phylogenetic reconstruction we used Maximum Likelihood (ML) and Bayesian Inferences (BI). Biogeographic models were generated using the ‘BioGeoBEARS’ software. We found support for nine taxa of Aotus and rejected the existence of monophyletic “red necked” and “grey necked” species groups. We suggest a taxonomic reclassification of the genus, which is better represented by two clades named northern group, which contains Aotus miconax, A. nancymae, A. trivirgatus, A. vociferans, A. lemurinus, A. griseimembra, A. zonalis, and A. brumbacki, and southern group, which contains A. nigriceps, A. boliviensis, A. infulatus, and A. azarae. The results suggest that the most recent common ancestor of all species of Aotus arose in the central Amazon basin in the Early Pliocene. The evolutionary history of night monkeys was guided by dispersal, vicariance and founder events. The end of the Andean uplift and the subsequent changes in the Amazon landscape, as well as the Amazon-Solimões and Tapajós rivers may have played an important role in the origin and diversification of Aotus, respectively. However, most of the Amazonian rivers seem not to have been geographical barriers to dispersal of night monkeys. The herein named southern group is fruit of a very recent diversification guided by dispersal, crossing the Tapajós, Xingú, Tocantins, and Guapore rivers and reaching the Cerrado in the last 1.6 My.


85125960257 (Scopus)







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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution