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Population genetics of the naturally rare tree Dimorphandra wilsonii (Caesalpinioideae) of the Brazilian Cerrado


Naturally rare species have a higher probability of stochastic extinction due to genetic, demographic, or environmental hazards; human disturbance may intensify these threats. Rare species may therefore be in need of short-term intervention to survive. The ecosystem with the second highest biodiversity in Brazil, the Cerrado, is suffering from fragmentation and threats to its flora. Dimorphandra wilsonii, a 30-m tall endemic tree of the Brazilian Cerrado, is listed as critically endangered; only 21 adult trees have been identified. We carried out mating system and pollen flow analyses to understand the current gene flow and limitations in the reproduction of D. wilsonii. With seven fluorescently labelled microsatellite primers, we genotyped 20 adult trees and 269 progeny from 13 mother trees. D. wilsonii displayed low levels of genetic diversity; bottleneck events are likely to have occurred (H e  = 0.60 and 0.29; H o  = 0.71 and 0.33, for adults and progeny, respectively). This species is predominantly outcrossing (t m  = 0.88), with some selfing (1-t m  = 0.12), as well as crossing between related individuals (t m -t s  = 0.11). None of the studied trees was reproductively isolated; a high proportion of pollen (55 %) came from trees yet to be discovered. Two genetic clusters (Northern and Southern) were identified, with high values of genetic divergence among the Southern sites. Planting of seedlings and monitoring of seed dispersion in order to maintain the genetic diversity and genetic structure of D. wilsonii are strategies that may ensure the continuation of D. wilsonii, but this species does not seem to require reproductive intervention to remain viable.

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The authors thank all owners of the visited sites, and Mr. Joseph Hein (Fazenda Cauaia) and Cimentos Liz, for allowing the collection of material; in addition, IBAMA granted a special licence for sampling D. wilsonii (Licence No. 24385-1). We also thank Eveline Caixeta and other members of the Laboratório de Biotecnologia do Cafeeiro for the use of the DNA Analyser, and members of our laboratory for support. CCV received a post-doc fellowship from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do estado de Minas Gerais (BPD-00037-10) and a grant from the International Foundation for Science (D/5064-1). TCSS received a grant from CNPq (507951/2010-7). LOO received a fellowship from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico (PQ 304153/2012-5) and a grant from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do estado de Minas Gerais (PPM-00291-13).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Data archiving statement

Data has been submitted to Dryad ( as three files: (1) ID of samples, X and Y coordinates, (2) microsatellite genotypes of all adult trees and (3) microsatellite genotypes of all progeny.

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Correspondence to Luiz O. de Oliveira.

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Communicated by D. Grattapaglia

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Vinson, C.C., Dal’Sasso, T.C.S., Sudré, C.P. et al. Population genetics of the naturally rare tree Dimorphandra wilsonii (Caesalpinioideae) of the Brazilian Cerrado. Tree Genetics & Genomes 11, 46 (2015).

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  • Cerrado
  • Conservation
  • Dimorphandra
  • Mating system
  • Microsatellite
  • Rare species