Molecular Variation in AVP and AVPR1a in New World Monkeys (Primates, Platyrrhini): Evolution and Implications for Social Monogamy
The arginine vasopressin V1a receptor gene (AVPR1A) has been implicated in increased partner preference and pair bonding behavior in mammalian lineages. This observation is of considerable importance for studies of social monogamy, which only appears in a small subset of primate taxa, including the Argentinean owl monkey (Aotus azarai). Thus, to investigate the possible influence of AVPR1A on the evolution of social behavior in owl monkeys, we sequenced this locus in a wild population from the Gran Chaco. We also assessed the interspecific variation of AVPR1A in platyrrhine species that represent a set of phylogenetically and behaviorally disparate taxa. The resulting data revealed A. azarai to have a unique genic structure for AVPR1A that varies in coding sequence and microsatellite repeat content relative to other primate and mammalian species. Specifically, one repetitive region that has been the focus in studies of human AVPR1A diversity, “RS3,” is completely absent in A. azarai and all other platyrrhines examined. This finding suggests that, if AVPR1A modulates behavior in owl monkeys and other neotropical primates, it does so independent of this region. These observations have also provided clues about the process by which the range of social behavior in the Order Primates evolved through lineage-specific neurogenetic variation.