The complete phylogeny of pangolins: scaling up resources for the molecular tracing of the most trafficked mammals on Earth

The Journal of Heredity
Philippe GaubertShu-Jin Luo


Pangolins, considered the most-trafficked mammals on Earth, are rapidly heading to extinction. Eight extant species of these African and Asian scale-bodied anteaters are commonly recognized, but their evolutionary relationships remain largely unexplored. Here we present the most comprehensive phylogenetic assessment of pangolins, based on genetic variation of complete mitogenomes and nine nuclear genes. We confirm deep divergence among Asian and African pangolins occurring not later than the Oligocene-Miocene boundary ca. 23 million-years-ago (Ma) (95% HPD=18.7-27.2), limited fossil evidence suggesting dispersals from Europe. We recognize three genera including Manis (Asian pangolins), Smutsia (large African pangolins) and Phataginus (small African pangolins), which first diversified in the Middle-Upper Miocene (9.8-13.3 Ma) through a period of gradual cooling coinciding with a worldwide taxonomic diversification among mammals. Based on large mitogenomic distances among the three genera (18.3-22.8%) and numerous (18) morphological traits unique to Phataginus, we propose the subfamily Phatagininae subfam. nov. to designate small African pangolins. In contrast with the morphological-based literature, our results establish that th...Continue Reading


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