Genomic analysis reveals hidden biodiversity within colugos, the sister group to primates. Academic Article uri icon


  • Colugos are among the most poorly studied mammals despite their centrality to resolving supraordinal primate relationships. Two described species of these gliding mammals are the sole living members of the order Dermoptera, distributed throughout Southeast Asia. We generated a draft genome sequence for a Sunda colugo and a Philippine colugo reference alignment, and used these to identify colugo-specific genetic changes that were enriched in sensory and musculoskeletal-related genes that likely underlie their nocturnal and gliding adaptations. Phylogenomic analysis and catalogs of rare genomic changes overwhelmingly support the contested hypothesis that colugos are the sister group to primates (Primatomorpha), to the exclusion of treeshrews. We captured ~140 kb of orthologous sequence data from colugo museum specimens sampled across their range and identified large genetic differences between many geographically isolated populations that may result in a >300% increase in the number of recognized colugo species. Our results identify conservation units to mitigate future losses of this enigmatic mammalian order.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

altmetric score

  • 174.03

author list (cited authors)

  • Mason, V. C., Li, G., Minx, P., Schmitz, J., Churakov, G., Doronina, L., ... Murphy, W. J.

citation count

  • 51

complete list of authors

  • Mason, Victor C||Li, Gang||Minx, Patrick||Schmitz, J├╝rgen||Churakov, Gennady||Doronina, Liliya||Melin, Amanda D||Dominy, Nathaniel J||Lim, Norman T-L||Springer, Mark S||Wilson, Richard K||Warren, Wesley C||Helgen, Kristofer M||Murphy, William J

publication date

  • August 2016