Genetic variability in a narrow endemic snapdragon (Antirrhinum subbaeticum, Scrophulariaceae) using RAPD markers

Antirrhinum subbaeticum is an endangered species inhabiting fragmented limestone cliffs. In the last 3 years, a drastic population decline has been observed in three of four known populations and the estimated number of surviving individuals is now close to 400. A RAPD study was conducted to evaluate the levels of genetic variation present in this species to improve conservation guidelines. Thity-nine polymorphic products identified 66.1% of the samples by unique RAPD multilocus profiles. A cluster analysis grouped the samples into two broad groups corresponding to northern or southern provenances. AMOVA analysis showed that only 17.7% of the genetic diversity was partitioned within populations. These results are in contrast to data available for other Antirrhinum species. This genetic structure could be explained by the predominant selfing behaviour exhibited by A. subbaeticum as opposed to the allogamy of other congeners. Genetic diversity within populations does not seem to be strongly related to population size and historical factors could be responsible for the very low levels of genetic diversity found in one population. Given the low genetic diversity within populations, it is suggested that an extensive sampling of individuals be made for recovering appropriate levels of the gene pool for ex situ preservation. However, translocation of individuals to the genetically weakened Bogarra population from other sources is not recommended.

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