Genus Macaca (Cercopithecidae: Papionini) is one of the most successful primate radiations. Despite previous studies on morphology and mitochondrial DNA analysis, a number of issues regarding the details of macaque evolution remain unsolved. Alu elements are a class of non-autonomous retroposons belonging to short interspersed elements that are specific to the primate lineage. Because retroposon insertions show very little homoplasy, and because the ancestral state (absence of the SINE) is known, Alu elements are useful genetic markers and have been utilized for analyzing primate phylogenentic relationships and human population genetic relationships. Using PCR display methodology, 298 new Alu insertions have been identified from ten species of macaques. Together with 60 loci reported previously, a total of 358 loci are used to infer the phylogenetic relationships of genus Macaca. With regard to earlier unresolved issues on the macaque evolution, the topology of our tree suggests that: 1) genus Macaca contains four monophyletic species groups; 2) within the Asian macaques, the silenus group diverged first, and members of the sinica and fascicularis groups share a common ancestor; 3) Macaca arctoides are classified in the sinica group. Our results provide a robust molecular phylogeny for genus Macaca with stronger statistical support than previous studies. The present study also illustrates that SINE-based approaches are a powerful tool in primate phylogenetic studies and can be used to successfully resolve evolutionary relationships between taxa at scales from the ordinal level to closely related species within one genus.
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