Chromosomal evolution in primates: tentative phylogeny from Microcebus murinus (Prosimian) to man

Hum Genet. 1979 May 10;48(3):251-314. doi: 10.1007/BF00272830.


The karyotypes of more than 60 species of Primates are studied and compared, with the use of almost all existing banding techniques. There is a very close analogy of chromosome banding between the Simians studied and man. The quantitative or qualitative variations detected all involve the heterochromatin. It is very likely that all the euchromatin (nonvariable R and Q bands) is identical in all the species. Approximately 70% of the bands are common to the Simians and to the Lemurs (Prosimians). In the remaining 30%, technical difficulties prevented a valuable comparison, but this does not exclude the possibility that a complete analogy may exist. Thus, it is very likely that chromosomal evolutions of the Simians, and probably of all the Primates, has occurred without duplication or deficiency of the euchromatin. Approximately 150 rearrangements could be identified and related to the human chromosomes. The types of rearrangement vary from one group (suborder, family, genus) to another. For instance, Robertsonian translocations are preponderant among the Lemuridae (44/57), but are nonexistent among the Pongidae. Chromosome fissions are very frequent amng the Cercopithecidae (10/23), but were not found elsewhere, and pericentric inversions are preponderant in the evolution of Pongidae and man (17/28). This suggest that the chromosomal evolution may be directed by the genic constitution (favouring the occurrence of a particular type of rearrangement, by enzymatic reaction), by the chromosomal morphology (the probability that Robertsonian translocation will be formed depends at least partially on the number of acrocentrics), and by the reproductive behaviour of the animals. Reconstitution of the sequence of the chromosomal rearrangements allowed us to propose a fairly precise genealogy of many Primates, giving the positions of the Catarrhines, the Platyrrhines, and the Prosimians. It was also possible to reconstruct the karyotypes of ancestors that died out several dozen million years ago. The possible role of chromosomal rearrangements in evolution is discussed. It appears necessary to consider different categories of rearrangements separately, depending on their behaviour. The 'nonfavoured' rearrangements, such as pericentric inversions, need to occur in an isolated small population for implanting, by an equivalent of genic derivation. The 'favoured' rearrangements, e.g., Robertsonian translocations, may occur and diffuse in panmictic populations, and accumulate. Their role of gametic barrier could be much more progressive. For discrimination between these two categories, it was necessary to differentiate the selective advantage or disadvantage of the rearrangement itself. It was not possible to show that chromosomal rearrangements play a direct role in modification of the phenotype by position effect. Comparison of the rearrangement that have occurred during evolution and those detected in the human population shows a strong correlation for some of them...

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azure Stains
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Nucleolus
  • Chromosome Banding
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Genes
  • Haplorhini
  • Heterochromatin / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Phylogeny
  • Primates / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Species Specificity


  • Azure Stains
  • Heterochromatin
  • RNA, Ribosomal