Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 959–970 | Cite as

Patterns of chloroplast DNA variation in Cycas debaoensis (Cycadaceae): conservation implications

Research Article


Climate changes during glacial periods have had significant effects on the current distribution of plant species. Palaeontologial data suggest that modern cycads originated in southwest China. Cycas debaoensis (Cycadaceae) is an endangered species restricted to a small area of southwest China. This species has been classified into two types: sand and karst, according to the soil matrix they grow on. To determine the locations of its glacial refugia and its genetic structure, we examined chloroplast sequence variation of the atpB-rbcL and psbA-trnH intergenic spacers. Four chloroplast DNA haplotypes were obtained from 120 individuals collected from 11 populations covering the entire extant distribution range of the species. Significant population subdivision was detected (GST = 0.684 and FST = 0.74160), suggesting low levels of gene flow between regions and populations. There was marked haplotype differentiation between populations in the sand and karst regions, with only one haplotype being present in both. The molecular phylogenetic data, together with the geographic distribution of the haplotypes, suggest that C. debaoensis experienced range contraction during glacial periods, and that the current populations are still confined to the areas of the original refugia. These results implied that isolated refugia might have maintained in both sand and karst regions during the last glacial maximum and even earlier glaciations. The low within-population diversity of C. debaoensis suggested that there were strong bottleneck events or founder effects within each separate region during the Quaternary climatic oscillations. These findings are important for the conservation of this endangered species.


Chloroplast DNA atpB-rbcL and psbA-trnCycas debaoensis Glacial refugia Range contraction Population structure Conservation 

Supplementary material

10592_2011_198_MOESM1_ESM.doc (45 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 45 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qing-Qing Zhan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jin-Feng Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xun Gong
    • 1
  • Hua Peng
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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