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Investigation of organismal evolution has been augmented in the last few decades by the development of techniques permitting the genetic material to be studied directly across extant taxa. The relationship among evolutionary processes governing genes, chromosomes, and organisms is explored here. While their rates and modes of evolution are usually greatly dissimilar, genotypes, karyotypes, and phenotypes trace the same phylogenetic path, and can therefore be used to illuminate different aspects of that path. A useful metaphor to express the relationship among these diverse evolutionary systems is the Ptolemaic epicycle, as each epicycle (i. e., evolutionary system) represents a unique detour off the main orbit (i. e., phylogeny). The hominoid primates are taken as an illustration of how these different systems can be used to track aspects of the common phylogeny.

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