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Keywords:

  • artificial selection;
  • cassava;
  • inbreeding;
  • natural selection;
  • relatedness

Abstract

Plant domestication provides striking examples of rapid evolution. Yet, it involves more complex processes than plain directional selection. Understanding the dynamics of diversity in traditional agroecosystems is both a fundamental goal in evolutionary biology and a practical goal in conservation. We studied how Amerindian cultivators maintain dynamically evolving gene pools in cassava. Farmers purposely maintain diversity in the form of phenotypically distinct, clonally propagated landraces. Landrace gene pools are continuously renewed by incorporating seedlings issued from spontaneous sexual reproduction. This poses two problems: agronomic quality may decrease because some seedlings are inbred, and landrace identity may be progressively lost through the incorporation of unrelated seedlings. Using a large microsatellite dataset, we show that farmers solve these problems by applying two kinds of selection: directional selection against inbred genotypes, and counter-selection of off-type phenotypes, which maintains high intra-landrace relatedness. Thus, cultural elements such as ideotypes (a representation of the ideal phenotype of a landrace) can shape genetic diversity.