Complex population genetic structure in the endemic Canary Island pine revealed using chloroplast microsatellite markers. uri icon

abstract

  • The Canary archipelago, located on the northwestern Atlantic coast of Africa, is comprised of seven islands aligned from east to west, plus seven minor islets. All the islands were formed by volcanic eruptions and their geological history is well documented providing a historical framework to study colonization events. The Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis C. Sm.), nowadays restricted to the westernmost Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro), is considered an old (Lower Cretaceous) relic from an ancient Mediterranean evolutionary centre. Twenty seven chloroplast haplotypes were found in Canary Island pine but only one of them was common to all populations. The distribution of haplotypic variation in P. canariensis suggested the colonization of western Canary Islands from a single continental source located close to the Mediterranean Basin. Present-day populations of Canary Island pine retain levels of genetic diversity equivalent to those found in Mediterranean continental pine species, Pinus pinaster and Pinus halepensis. A hierarchical analysis of variance (AMOVA) showed high differentiation among populations within islands (approximately 19%) but no differentiation among islands. Simple differentiation models such as isolation by distance or stepping-stone colonization from older to younger islands were rejected based on product-moment correlations between pairwise genetic distances and both geographic distances and population-age divergences. However, the distribution of cpSSR diversity within the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria pointed towards the importance of the role played by regional Pliocene and Quaternary volcanic activity and long-distance gene flow in shaping the population genetic structure of the Canary Island pine. Therefore, conservation strategies at the population level are strongly recommended for this species.

publication date

  • 2003
  • 2003