Baboons (genus Papio) are an interesting phylogeographical primate model for the evolution of savanna species during the Pleistocene. Earlier studies, based on partial mitochondrial sequence information, revealed seven major haplogroups indicating multiple para- and polyphylies among the six baboon species. The most basal splits among baboon lineages remained unresolved and the credibility intervals for divergence time estimates were rather large. Assuming that genetic variation within the two studied mitochondrial loci so far was insufficient to infer the apparently rapid early radiation of baboons we used complete mitochondrial sequence information of ten specimens, representing all major baboon lineages, to reconstruct a baboon phylogeny and to re-estimate divergence times. Our data confirmed the earlier tree topology including the para- and polyphyletic relationships of most baboon species; divergence time estimates are slightly younger and credibility intervals narrowed substantially, thus making the estimates more precise. However, the most basal relationships could not be resolved and it remains open whether (1) the most southern population of baboons diverged first or (2) a major split occurred between southern and northern clades. Our study shows that complete mitochondrial genome sequences are more effective to reconstruct robust phylogenies and to narrow down estimated divergence time intervals than only short portions of the mitochondrial genome, although there are also limitations in resolving phylogenetic relationships.
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