Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 1365–1375 | Cite as

Genetic diversity and species delimitation in the cultivated and wild Guinea yams (Dioscorea spp.) from Southwest Ethiopia as determined by AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) markers

  • Wendawek Abebe MengeshaEmail author
  • Sebsebe Demissew
  • M. F. Fay
  • R. J. Smith
  • I. Nordal
  • P. Wilkin
Research Article


Yams (Dioscorea spp.) rank as the fourth most important root and tuber crop after potatoes, cassava and sweet potatoes. They are an economic crop in most of the tropics especially in West Africa, which produces over 95 % of the world output. Despite their cultural and economic importance there is taxonomic confusion regarding Guinea yams. The currently used classification scheme, which relies on vegetative and inflorescence characters, does not consistently delimit species boundaries between members of Guinea yams (D. cayenensis Lam.–D. rotundata Poir. complex), their wild relatives (D. abyssinica Kunth and D. praehensilis Benth.,) and D. sagittifolia Pax. Establishing the taxonomic identity of the germplasm and understanding the systematic relationships among crops is vital to the management of genetic resources and the utilization of accessions. In this study, amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genetic fingerprinting was used to evaluate and characterize 43 individual plants, belonging to different populations of wild and cultivated Guinea yams. The three primer combinations used in the AFLP analyses generated 158 scorable bands, with an overall polymorphism of 78 %. Ordination and cluster analyses of AFLP data failed to produce any clear species boundary between either the Guinea yam accessions or between them and their wild relatives. The average genetic similarity between the study individuals of Guinea yams and their wild relatives ranged from 60 to 100 %. The first, second and third principal coordinates axes cumulatively account for 77.45 % of the total variation. AFLP analyses also revealed a higher genetic divergence among cultivated Guinea yam accessions of the Sheko cultivars. Ordination and cluster analysis using UPGMA revealed no clear species boundaries between members of the complex. Thus, the taxonomy of these “species” needs to be revisited using other markers.


AFLP Genetic diversity Guinea yams Species delimitation 



This research was fully funded by the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU, Project 53/03). We thank the staffs at Jodrell laborarory (Conservation Genetics and molecular systematic sections) for technical support, Anteneh Tesfaye and local field assistants in the Sheko area for the technical assistance in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendawek Abebe Mengesha
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sebsebe Demissew
    • 2
  • M. F. Fay
    • 3
  • R. J. Smith
    • 3
  • I. Nordal
    • 4
  • P. Wilkin
    • 3
  1. 1.Dilla UniversityDillaEthiopia
  2. 2.National Herbarium Addis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Royal Botanic GardensKew, RichmondUK
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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