Tree Genetics & Genomes

, 14:18 | Cite as

Anthropogenic dispersion of selected germplasm creates a geographic mosaic of contrasting maternal lineages in Crescentia cujete from Mesoamerica

  • Xitlali Aguirre-Dugua
  • Jesús Llanderal-Mendoza
  • Antonio González-Rodríguez
  • Luis E. Eguiarte
  • Alejandro Casas
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Germplasm Diversity


The modification of the genetic/phenotypic composition of plant populations through artificial selection occurs both through time and space. We analyzed the role of human dispersal on the geographic distribution of maternal lineages of Crescentia cujete in Mesoamerica. We sampled 28 homegarden (224 individuals) and 12 wild populations (159 individuals). Semi-structured interviews provided information on the origin of cultivated trees. Six chloroplast microsatellites allowed for the identification of 21 haplotypes, four of them exclusively in 83% of homegarden trees. Wild haplotypes from local C. cujete and Crescentia alata were found at low frequencies (17%) under cultivation. Cultivated and wild haplotypes constituted two different haplogroups. Accordingly, barriers to seed dispersal were detected among neighboring cultivated and wild populations. Recorded events of human dispersal of cuttings and seeds attaining up to > 200 km agreed with homegardens’ lower diversity (Nei’s h = 0.55, dropping to 0.32 when excluding wild haplotypes). Wild populations displayed high diversity (h = 0.71) and isolation by distance, in agreement with physiographic provinces. Our results support the native status of wild C. cujete and a Pre-Columbian introduction of cultivated lineages that generated a novel genetic mosaic superimposed on native maternal lineages. The results reveal the active role of farmers in maintaining the identity of cultivated lineages through time, while chloroplast capture from local congeners has increased the diversity of maternal lineages under cultivation. Additional data are needed on the origins of cultivated lineages, but our results contribute new insights into tree domestication in this center of crop diversity.


Bignoniaceae Crescentia cujete Tree domestication Homegarden Mesoamerica Perennial 



The authors thank Edgar Pérez Negrón, Ignacio Torres García, and Fernando Ortiz for their help during collection trips. Santiago Ramírez Barahona reconstructed the paleodistribution of wild populations during the Last Glacial Maximum. Jacqueline Pérez Camacho provided the C. cujete sample from Cuba and Natalia Escobedo Kenefic the C. alata sample from Guatemala. Jeannine Cavender-Bares and Marileth de los Angeles Briceño contributed with samples from Costa Rica. Victor Rocha Ramírez provided valuable help during lab work. The authors thank David Gernandt for permitting access to Crescentia specimens deposited in the Herbario Nacional MEXU and for revising the English version of the manuscript. This work was supported by Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (IN205111-3, IN209214) and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CB-2008-01-103551, CB-2013-01-221800). The paper was written during a sabbatical leave of LEE to the University of Minnesota in the Peter Tiffin laboratory, with support by a scholarship from Programa de Apoyos para la Superación del Personal Académico, Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Three anonymous reviewers provided insightful comments that greatly improved the manuscript.

Data archiving statement

Haplotype distribution per population and microsatellite data leading to haplotype definition are available in Online Resource 7.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y SustentabilidadUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus MoreliaMoreliaMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Botánica, Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior, Ciudad UniversitariaMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.Escuela Nacional de Estudios SuperioresUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus MoreliaMoreliaMexico
  4. 4.Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior, Ciudad UniversitariaMexico CityMexico

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