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Patterns of genetic diversity and structure of a threatened palm species (Euterpe edulis Arecaceae) from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

A Correction to this article was published on 10 August 2022

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The detection of distribution patterns of genetic diversity of plant and animal species has contributed to the understanding of biodiversity and evolutionary history of the Atlantic Forest. We used microsatellite markers to access the genetic diversity and structure of 26 populations and 527 adult individuals of Euterpe edulis, a native palm which is an important food resource for fauna and is intensively exploited due to economic reasons. We found high genetic diversity and inbreeding in all populations analyzed. We report highest rates of inbreeding for this species, which could reflect the anthropic impacts of selective cutting, fragmentation, and change in foraging behavior from pollinators and less availability and mobility of large dispersers. We detected by STRUCTURE, two genetic groups, Northern and Southern, which divide the Brazilian Atlantic Forest geographically. These groups have low genetic admixtures, but we found a region of lineage hybridization in the contact zone with low recent gene flow. Distribution pattern of this species corroborates results from previous studies reporting the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) have shaped the structuring of the species through movements of forests’ expansion and contraction. The STRUCTURE analysis of each group revealed the presence of genetic subgroups with low rates of recurrent gene flow. Southern subgroups have higher rates of admixtures than the Northern subgroups, revealing greater historical connectivity of forests in this region.

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Fig. 1: Clustering analysis and geographical distribution of two geographic clusters in Euterpe edulis.
Fig. 2: Clustering analysis and geographical distribution of four geographic subgroups in Euterpe edulis.
Fig. 3: Recurrent gene flow rates estimated by BayesAss analysis.

Data availability

Microsatellite genotypes and geographic location of samples are available from the Agri-Environmental Research Data Repository at the University of Guelph (

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We thank all the providers of plant material as listed in Table S7 in the Supplementary Information, and Ramon A. Braz, Vanderlei F. de Araujo, and Amanda F. Ulbinski for helping in collecting plant material. We would like to thank all colleagues at the Biometrics and Genetics and Plant Improvement laboratories from the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, for helping to process and organize the samples. We are grateful to Daniele S. França, Horlei V. Ribeiro, and Vanessa P. Leite from the Centro de Biotecnologia e Genética at the Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz for their support with genotyping of microsatellite markers. Financial support to this study was obtained from the Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa (CNPq, Brazil) (Researcher productivity fellowship FAG #312065/2021-3; AF; MFSF #311840/2019-1), Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES, Brazil)—Finance Code 001, and from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Espírito Santo (FAPES, Vitória—ES, Brazil) in partnership with VALE.

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AGP designed research, data analysis and wrote the paper. TCS data analysis and wrote the paper. JHS-G and GBC coordinated sampling. LBA and FN helped with performed molecular biology. FAG assistance with microsatellite genotyping and wrote the paper. MFSF conception and design of the project, secured funding and wrote the paper. AF conception and design of the project, data analysis, secured funding and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Marcia Flores da Silva Ferreira.

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Pereira, A.G., da Silva Ferreira, M.F., da Silveira, T.C. et al. Patterns of genetic diversity and structure of a threatened palm species (Euterpe edulis Arecaceae) from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Heredity (2022).

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