• archipelago;
  • founder effect;
  • Macaronesia;
  • Olea europaea;
  • ploidy level;
  • stepping-stone


Geographical isolation and polyploidization are central concepts in plant evolution. The hierarchical organization of archipelagos in this study provides a framework for testing the evolutionary consequences for polyploid taxa and populations occurring in isolation. Using amplified fragment length polymorphism and simple sequence repeat markers, we determined the genetic diversity and differentiation patterns at three levels of geographical isolation in Olea europaea: mainland-archipelagos, islands within an archipelago, and populations within an island. At the subspecies scale, the hexaploid ssp. maroccana (southwest Morocco) exhibited higher genetic diversity than the insular counterparts. In contrast, the tetraploid ssp. cerasiformis (Madeira) displayed values similar to those obtained for the diploid ssp. guanchica (Canary Islands). Geographical isolation was associated with a high genetic differentiation at this scale. In the Canarian archipelago, the stepping-stone model of differentiation suggested in a previous study was partially supported. Within the western lineage, an east-to-west differentiation pattern was confirmed. Conversely, the easternmost populations were more related to the mainland ssp. europaea than to the western guanchica lineage. Genetic diversity across the Canarian archipelago was significantly correlated with the date of the last volcanic activity in the area/island where each population occurs. At the island scale, this pattern was not confirmed in older islands (Tenerife and Madeira), where populations were genetically homogeneous. In contrast, founder effects resulted in low genetic diversity and marked genetic differentiation among populations of the youngest island, La Palma.