Conservation Genetics

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 213-223

First online:

Genetic isolation of Cape Verde Island Phoenix atlantica (Arecaceae) revealed by microsatellite markers

  • S. A. HendersonAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, The Natural History Museum Email author 
  • , N. BillotteAffiliated withCIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement), UMR 1096 Polymorphismes d’Intérêt Agronomique
  • , J.-C. PintaudAffiliated withIRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), UMR DGPC/DYNADIV

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Increasing human pressure on the environment in the isolated Macaronesian island group of Cape Verde is threatening many endemic species with extinction. The status of Phoenix atlantica, the Cape Verde Island date palm, is one of the unresolved taxonomic issues not only of the archipelago’s flora but also in the genus Phoenix. We applied 15 nuclear microsatellite markers and one chloroplast minisatellite marker to individuals of Phoenix from the Cape Verde Islands, P. dactylifera, P. canariensis and P. sylvestris, in order to assess the taxonomic position of P. atlantica within the genus. Our analysis showed that P. atlantica is clearly distinct from its close relatives and that its closest relative is likely to be its nearest geographical neighbour, P. dactylifera. Comparable levels of genetic diversity were found in insular P. atlantica and continental P. dactylifera despite the large difference in geographic range size. Our findings highlight the importance of conserving the relatively fragmented and isolated populations of P. atlantica as one of only␣two endemic trees on the islands and emphasise the need for further studies into its evolution and relationship with P. dactylifera.

Key words

colonisation island populations Macaronesia microsatellites Palmae