Background: Chromosomal painting, using whole chromosome probes from humans and Saguinus oedipus, was used to establish karyotypic divergence among species of the genus Cebus, including C. olivaceus, C. albifrons, C. apella robustus and C. apella paraguayanus. Cytogenetic studies suggested that the species of this genus have conservative karyotypes, with diploid numbers ranging from 2n = 52 to 2n = 54.
Results: Banding studies revealed morphological divergence among some chromosomes, owing to variations in the size of heterochromatic blocks. This analysis demonstrated that Cebus species have five conserved human associations (i.e., 5/7, 2/16, 10/16, 14/15, 8/18 and 3/21) when compared with the putative ancestral Platyrrhini karyotype.
Conclusion: The autapomorphies 8/15/8 in C. albifrons and 12/15 in C. olivaceus explain the changes in chromosome number from 54 to 52. The association 5/16/7, which has not previously been reported in Platyrrhini, was also found in C. olivaceus. These data corroborate previous FISH results, suggesting that the genus Cebus has a very similar karyotype to the putative ancestral Platyrrhini.