Domestication occurs as humans select and cultivate wild plants in agricultural habitats. The amount and structure of variation in contemporary cultivated populations has been shaped, in part, by how genetic material was transferred from one cultivated generation to the next. In some cultivated tree species, domestication involved a shift from sexually reproducing wild populations to vegetatively propagated cultivated populations; however, little is known about how domestication has impacted variation in these species. We employed AFLP data to explore the amount, structure, and distribution of variation in clonally propagated domesticated populations and sexually reproducing wild populations of the Neotropical fruit tree, Spondias purpurea (Anacardiaceae). Cultivated populations from three different agricultural habitats were included: living fences, backyards, and orchards. AFLP data were analysed using measures of genetic diversity (% polymorphic loci, Shannon's diversity index, Nei's gene diversity, panmictic heterozygosity), population structure (FST analogues), and principal components analyses. Levels of genetic variation in cultivated S. purpurea populations are significantly less than variation found in wild populations, although the amount of diversity varies in different agricultural habitats. Cultivated populations have a greater proportion of their genetic variability distributed among populations than wild populations. The genetic structure of backyard populations resembles that of wild populations, but living fence and orchard populations have 1/3 more variability distributed among populations, most likely a reflection of relative levels of vegetative reproduction. Finally, these results suggest that S. purpurea was domesticated in two distinct regions within Mesoamerica.
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