Collaborative Research: The evolution of the anthropoid genome

Project: Research project

Project Details


The goal of this collaborative research is to use genomic data to address fundamental questions about the evolution of primates. The investigators will sequence the genomes of the roughly 36 anthropoid (monkey and ape) genera for which little or no genomic data are available. Comparisons of the genomes of different but closely related organisms can yield many insights into their biology, such as which areas of the genome affect traits of biological importance, and when important branching events occurred in the primate tree of life. Studies of monkey and ape genomes also provide comparative data for understanding what is unique about the human genome. This research will result in a freely accessible anthropoid primate genomic database and will facilitate the training of graduate, undergraduate, and high school students, including students from New York City public schools, in state-of-the-art bioinformatics as well as molecular laboratory techniques.

Identifying patterns of variation in DNA substitutions and understanding their causes is a central goal of comparative genetics. Genomic regions that depart from 'baseline' neutral rates of molecular evolution may have biological function and therefore influence adaptive phenotypes. The power of many comparative analyses improves when more species from major branches of the tree of life are included. Up to now, relatively few monkey species have been the target of large-scale sequencing efforts. The researchers will use a combination of short-read and long-molecule DNA sequencing to obtain genomic sequences of ~36 anthropoid genera and then combine these with the 12 that are already sequenced. With this large comparative dataset, the researchers will 1) infer the best possible primate tree, including estimates of the timing of splits among major branches; 2) determine which life history traits such as generation length cause variations in the rate of genomic evolution among monkey, ape, and human lineages; and 3) scan for areas of the genome of major branches of the anthropoid tree that might be of functional significance.

Effective start/end date1/15/1712/31/20


  • National Science Foundation: $30,000.00


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