The genomics of ecological flexibility, large brains, and long lives in capuchin monkeys revealed with fecalFACS

Joseph D. Orkin, Michael J. Montague, Daniela Tejada-Martinez, Marc de Manuel, Javier del Campo, Saul Cheves Hernandez, Anthony Di Fiore, Claudia Fontsere, Jason A. Hodgson, Mareike C. Janiak, Lukas F.K. Kuderna, Esther Lizano, Maria Pia Martin, Yoshihito Niimura, George H. Perry, Carmen Soto Valverde, Jia Tang, Wesley C. Warren, João Pedro de Magalhães, Shoji KawamuraTomàs Marquès-Bonet, Roman Krawetz, Amanda D. Melin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Ecological flexibility, extended lifespans, and large brains have long intrigued evolutionary biologists, and comparative genomics offers an efficient and effective tool for generating new insights into the evolution of such traits. Studies of capuchin monkeys are particularly well situated to shed light on the selective pressures and genetic underpinnings of local adaptation to diverse habitats, longevity, and brain development. Distributed widely across Central and South America, they are inventive and extractive foragers, known for their sensorimotor intelligence. Capuchins have among the largest relative brain size of any monkey and a lifespan that exceeds 50 y, despite their small (3 to 5 kg) body size. We assemble and annotate a de novo reference genome for Cebus imitator. Through high-depth sequencing of DNA derived from blood, various tissues, and feces via fluorescence-activated cell sorting (fecalFACS) to isolate monkey epithelial cells, we compared genomes of capuchin populations from tropical dry forests and lowland rainforests and identified population divergence in genes involved in water balance, kidney function, and metabolism. Through a comparative genomics approach spanning a wide diversity of mammals, we identified genes under positive selection associated with longevity and brain development. Additionally, we provide a technological advancement in the use of noninvasive genomics for studies of free-ranging mammals. Our intra- and interspecific comparative study of capuchin genomics provides insights into processes underlying local adaptation to diverse and physiologically challenging environments, as well as the molecular basis of brain evolution and longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2010632118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 16 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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