The primary endosymbiotic bacteria from three species of parasitic primate lice were characterized molecularly. We have confirmed the characterization of the primary endosymbiont (P-endosymbiont) of the human head/body louse
and provide new characterizations of the P-endosymbionts from
from chimpanzees and
, the pubic louse of humans. The endosymbionts show an average percent sequence divergence of 11 to 15% from the most closely related known bacterium “
Arsenophonus insecticola.” We propose that two additional species be added to the genus “
Riesia.” The new species proposed within “
Riesia” have sequence divergences of 3.4% and 10 to 12% based on uncorrected pairwise differences. Our Bayesian analysis shows that the branching pattern for the primary endosymbionts was the same as that for their louse hosts, suggesting a long coevolutionary history between primate lice and their primary endosymbionts. We used a calibration of 5.6 million years to date the divergence between endosymbionts from human and chimpanzee lice and estimated an evolutionary rate of nucleotide substitution of 0.67% per million years, which is 15 to 30 times faster than previous estimates calculated for
, the primary endosymbiont in aphids. Given the evidence for cospeciation with primate lice and the evidence for fast evolutionary rates, this lineage of endosymbiotic bacteria can be evaluated as a fast-evolving marker of both louse and primate evolutionary histories.