Genetic structure of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) in the Old World reveals a strong differentiation between eastern and western populations

Salwa Zehdi-Azouzi, Emira Cherif, Souhila Moussouni, Muriel Gros-Balthazard, Summar Abbas Naqvi, Bertha Ludeña, Karina Castillo, Nathalie Chabrillange, Nadia Bouguedoura, Malika Bennaceur, Farida Si-Dehbi, Sabira Abdoulkader, Abdourahman Daher, Jean Frederic Terral, Sylvain Santoni, Marco Ballardini, Antonio Mercuri, Mohamed Ben Salah, Karim Kadri, Ahmed OthmaniClaudio Littardi, Amel Salhi-Hannachi, Jean Christophe Pintaud, Frédérique Aberlenc-Bertossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aims Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera, Arecaceae) are of great economic and ecological value to the oasis agriculture of arid and semi-arid areas. However, despite the availability of a large date palm germplasm spreading from the Atlantic shores to Southern Asia, improvement of the species is being hampered by a lack of information on global genetic diversity and population structure. In order to contribute to the varietal improvement of date palms and to provide new insights on the influence of geographic origins and human activity on the genetic structure of the date palm, this study analysed the diversity of the species. Methods Genetic diversity levels and population genetic structure were investigated through the genotyping of a collection of 295 date palm accessions ranging from Mauritania to Pakistan using a set of 18 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers and a plastid minisatellite. Key Results Using a Bayesian clustering approach, the date palm genotypes can be structured into two different gene pools: the first, termed the Eastern pool, consists of accessions from Asia and Djibouti, whilst the second, termed the Western pool, consists of accessions from Africa. These results confirm the existence of two ancient gene pools that have contributed to the current date palm diversity. The presence of admixed genotypes is also noted, which points at gene flows between eastern and western origins, mostly from east to west, following a human-mediated diffusion of the species. Conclusions This study assesses the distribution and level of genetic diversity of accessible date palm resources, provides new insights on the geographic origins and genetic history of the cultivated component of this species, and confirms the existence of at least two domestication origins. Furthermore, the strong genetic structure clearly established here is a prerequisite for any breeding programme exploiting the effective polymorphism related to each gene pool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Arecaceae
  • Date palm
  • Phoenix dactylifera
  • SSR markers
  • genetic diversity
  • genetic structure
  • nuclear microsatellite
  • plastid minisatellite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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