Whole-genome sequencing of the snub-nosed monkey provides insights into folivory and evolutionary history

Nat Genet. 2014 Dec;46(12):1303-10. doi: 10.1038/ng.3137. Epub 2014 Nov 2.


Colobines are a unique group of Old World monkeys that principally eat leaves and seeds rather than fruits and insects. We report the sequencing at 146× coverage, de novo assembly and analyses of the genome of a male golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) and resequencing at 30× coverage of three related species (Rhinopithecus bieti, Rhinopithecus brelichi and Rhinopithecus strykeri). Comparative analyses showed that Asian colobines have an enhanced ability to derive energy from fatty acids and to degrade xenobiotics. We found evidence for functional evolution in the colobine RNASE1 gene, encoding a key secretory RNase that digests the high concentrations of bacterial RNA derived from symbiotic microflora. Demographic reconstructions indicated that the profile of ancient effective population sizes for R. roxellana more closely resembles that of giant panda rather than its congeners. These findings offer new insights into the dietary adaptations and evolutionary history of colobine primates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cellulose / chemistry
  • Colobinae / genetics*
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome
  • Geography
  • Herbivory / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenome
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Ribonucleases / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Xenobiotics / chemistry


  • Fatty Acids
  • Xenobiotics
  • Cellulose
  • Ribonucleases