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The Taxonomic and Phylogenetic Classification of the Tarsier (Tarsiiformes)
Hannah Brown
Hannah Brown
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Subjects / Keywords:
Phylogenetic Tree
Biological Anthropology


Abstract The Tarsiiformes (often referred to in this essay as “the tarsier”) and their classification is highly debated among physical anthropologists. For centuries, there were two suborders of primates: Prosiimi and Anthropoidea (also known as Simiiformes). Prosimians are comprised of lemurs, lorises (and galagos) and tarsiers. Anthropoids are comprised of monkeys, apes and humans. However, the taxonomy and phylogeny of the Order Primates changed, as the tarsier was moved - what was once considered a prosimian is now classified as sister taxa to anthropoids. Due to this alteration, the suborders have been changed to Strepsirrhini and Haplorhini. The strepsirrhines are comprised of lemurs and lorises (and galagos), while the haplorrhines are tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans. Despite this change, the classification of the tarsier is still in question. Parelman et al. (2011) identifies three main phylogenetic assignments: (1), Tarsiiformes to be classified in the same infraorder with lemurs and lorises to create the suborder Prosimii (the traditional taxonomy); (2) Tarsiiformes to be classified in the same infraorder as Simiiformes (Anthropoidea) to create the suborder Haplorhini (as the current theory stands); (3), Tarsiiformes to be classified as an independent phylogenetic lineage (p. 2). The tarsier display strepsirrhine morphology but are found to be genetically more similar to Haplorhines. I argue that tarsiers should be classified alongside anthropoids to create that suborder Haplorhini, as the current theory stands. In order to determine the correct categorization, data collected range from DNA segments replicated through PCR (Parelman et al., 2011), retroposon insertions (Hartig et al., 2013) which can be defined as, “a fragment of DNA inserted into a chromosome following reverse transcription from RNA” (Retroposon, n.d.) and morphological characteristics such as the brain, nasal region, eye orbits, (Schwartz; Gursky, 2003) and locomotion. Finally, I will evaluate tarsier, gorilla, chimpanzee, squirrel monkey and macaque skulls and compare osteological findings. Data analysis will focus on both morphological characteristics and genetic comparisons. Comparing primate genomes utilizes important contemporary tools and represents a strong understanding of genetics; comparing and replicating specific aspects of various primate gene sequences allows researchers to compare indisputable genetic facts, including how closely related (or lack thereof) the Tarsiiformes are to other primate groups and relation in time to a common ancestor (Parelman et al., 2011). By exploring the evolutionary history of the tarsier, researchers will gain insight towards primate and hominin evolution. Studying primates furthers the understanding of the health, behavior, tool use and social organization of ancient hominins. Additionally, by placing tarsiers in their correct category, it may impact the timing and phylogenetic location of the Haplorrhine-Strepsirrhine split. Taxonomic and phylogenetic classification is necessary to organize and compare all species from the order Primates.
Collected for SUNY Oswego Institutional Repository by the online self-submittal tool. Submitted by Hannah Brown.
General Note:
The terms may be tricky between the abstract and presentation. Here is a quick breakdown: Traditional classification: Prosimians = lemur, loris (and galago), tarsier Anthropoids = monkey, ape, human Current classification: Strepsirrhini = lemur, loris (and galago) Haplorhini = monkey, ape, human and tarsier

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SUNY Oswego Institutional Repository
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SUNY Oswego Institution
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