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Student takes her monkey research to Chicago

Monday 25 April 2016

A RESEARCH student is to speak at the world’s premier conference in her field after shedding new light on the evolution of the titi monkeys of South America.

Hazel Byrne, 26, identified that the genus Callicebus, first described by Oldfield Thomas in 1903, should be redefined as three distinct genera.

Her work with Dr Jean Boubli and zoologists in the US and Brazil was published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, with Dr Boubli describing the discovery as “the culmination of a 20 year quest for the origins of titi monkey diversity.”

Hazel, from Manchester, will now present the research at the joint meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatologists in Chicago (August 21 -27)  - the most important annual gathering of specialist scientists.

Jungle studies

To complete her PhD, she spent months in the jungles of Brazil, helping to build the largest array of titi monkey DNA sequences ever assembled, affording science a fresh perspective on the key evolutionary events and when they occurred over time.

Hazel and Jean pinpoint the split between Plecturocebus and Callicebus at approximately 11 million years ago and the split of Callicebus and Cheracebus to 8 million years.

“Historically taxonomy (the classification of animals) has been largely based on morphology - colour, shape, size, features – rather than genetic diversity,” explained Hazel. “However, things can be very closely related and look quite different, or be genetically distinct and look the same.”

Hazel is one of only eight research students to win the conference award for best student presentation.


‘Phylogenetic relationships of the New World titi monkeys (Callicebus): first appraisal of taxonomy based on molecular evidence - Byrne et al. Frontiers in Zoology DOI 10.1186/s12983-016-0142-4 Hazel Byrne, Anthony B. Rylands, Jeferson C. Carneiro, Jessica W. Lynch Alfaro, Fabricio Bertuol, Maria N. F. da Silva, Mariluce Messias, Colin P. Groves, Russell A. Mittermeier, Izeni Farias, Tomas Hrbek, Horacio Schneider, Iracilda Sampaio and Jean P. Boubli* 


-The University of Salford will run a new Masters in Wildlife Conservation in from September 2016.