Evolutionary affinities of the enigmatic saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) in the context of the molecular phylogeny of Bovidae

Alexandre Hassanin, Emmanuel J. P. Douzery

Abstract

To elucidate the systematic status of the enigmatic saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a new bovid genus recently discovered in Vietnam, and to investigate phylogenetic relationships within the family Bovidae, four distinct DNA markers were sequenced. Complete mitochondrial cytochrome b (1143 bp) and 12S rRNA (956 bp) genes and non–coding regions from the nuclear genes for aromatase cytochrome P–450 (199 bp) and lactoferrin (338 bp) have been compared for 25 bovid species and three Cervidae and Antilocapridae outgroups. Independent and/or combined analyses of the four nucleotide matrices through maximum parsimony and maximum–likelihood methods indicated that Bovidae consists of two major lineages, i.e. Bovinae which contains the tribes Bovini, Boselaphini and Tragelaphini, and Antilopinae which encompasses all other bovids. Within Bovinae, the tribe Bovini is divided into buffalo Bovini (Bubalus and Syncerus) and cattle Bovini (Bos and Bison) and Tragelaphini are possibly related to Boselaphini. Pseudoryx is shown to be (i) robustly nested within Bovinae; (ii) strongly associated with Bovini; and (iii) tentatively sharing a sister–group relationship with cattle Bovini. Within Antilopinae, three robust clades are in evidence: (i) Hippotragus and Damaliscus are linked to Ovis; (ii) Aepyceros joins Neotragus; and (iii) Cephalophus clusters with Oreotragus.