Leveraging museum genomics to unravel species boundaries and historical biogeography of nocturnal African primates (Galagidae)




Penna, Anna Paula Casselli

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Tropical rainforests harbor most of Earth’s biodiversity, yet our understanding of rainforest biotas remains vastly incomplete. Knowledge gaps on species richness and endemism hamper conservation measures and inferences in ecology and evolution. In the African rainforests, characterizing species diversity and distributions has been challenging owing to sociopolitical, bureaucratic, and logistic impediments. This dissertation employs a museum genomics approach to study primate diversity and evolution in Africa’s western Guinean-Congolian forests and eastern forest mosaics. To this goal, I focus on the broadly distributed yet poorly known galagos, or bushbabies. Chapter 1 reviews the systematics and taxonomy of the family Galagidae and discusses unresolved questions in the clade’s evolution. Chapter 2 examines the mitochondrial DNA diversity of the small-eared greater galagos (Otolemur garnettii), challenging current taxonomic schemes and revealing undescribed diversity. Given challenges to sample wild populations to support genetic work, Chapter 3 develops a framework for the extraction, sequencing, and analysis of DNA sequence data from century-old museum specimens. It then applies this framework for the assessment of exogenous contamination and phylogenetic inference in the whole infraorder Lorisiformes (galagos, lorises, angwantibos, and pottos). Finally, Chapter 4 extends this museomics framework to unravel lineage diversity within western dwarf galagos (Galagoides), employing whole genomes to characterize spatial genetic patterns and their correspondence with morphological divergence among populations. This dissertation illustrates the extraordinary potential of archival DNA to improve knowledge on species diversity, ranges, and speciation. This improved knowledge will support historical biogeography and biodiversity conservation in Africa’s rainforests and beyond.


The full text of this item is not available at this time because the author has placed this item under an embargo until December 20, 2024.


Biogeography, Cryptic species, Evolution, Museum genomics, Phylogeny, Primates