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Rivers shape population genetic structure in Mauritia flexuosa (Arecaceae)

Journal article
Authors N. L. Sander
F. Perez-Zavala
C. J. Da Silva
J. C. Arruda
M. T. Pulido
M. A. A. Barelli
A. B. Rossi
A. P. Viana
M. S. B. Boechat
Christine D. Bacon
A. Cibrian-Jaramillo
Published in Ecology and Evolution
Volume 8
Issue 13
Pages 6589-6598
ISSN 2045-7758
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 6589-6598
Language en
Keywords Amazonia, anthropogenic effect, Arecaceae, gene flow, palm, rivers, seed dispersal, natural-populations, barrier hypothesis, amazonian, forest, atlantic forest, yangtze-river, palm, diversity, brazil, diversification, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Subject categories Evolutionary Biology, Ecology


The Mauritia flexuosa L.f. palm is known as the tree of life given its importance as fundamental food and construction resources for humans. The species is broadly distributed in wet habitats of Amazonia and dry habitats of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins and in the Cerrado savanna. We collected 179 individuals from eight different localities throughout these habitats and used microsatellites to characterize their population structure and patterns of gene flow. Overall, we found high genetic variation, except in one savanna locality. Gene flow between populations is largely congruent with river basins and the direction of water flow within and among them, suggesting their importance for seed dispersal. Further, rivers have had a higher frequency of human settlements than forested sites, contributing to population diversity and structure through increased human use and consumption of M.flexuosa along rivers. Gene flow patterns revealed that migrants are sourced primarily from within the same river basin, such as those from Madeira and Tapajos basins. Our work suggests that rivers and their inhabitants are a critical element of the landscape in Amazonia and have impacted the dispersal and subsequent distribution of tropical palm species, as shown by the patterns of genetic variation in M.flexuosa.

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