Reexamining the Classification of Theobroma cacao L. Using Molecular Markers

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1165

Genetic similarities among eight Theobroma and two Herrania species, including 29 genotypes of T. cacao, were estimated by rDNA polymorphism. A phenogram based on these genetic similarities significantly separated two clusters: one cluster included all Herrania and Theobroma species, except T. cacao, while the second contained 28 of 29 T. cacao genotypes. There was no clear distinction between Herrania and Theobroma species. Separation of 29 T. cacao genotypes, representing all races and various origins, had no congruency with the conventional classification into three horticultural races: Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Genetic similarities in T. cacao, estimated with RAPD markers, indicated continuous variation among the generally similar but heterogeneous genotypes. The wild genotypes formed an outgroup distinct from the cultivated genotypes, a distinction supported by the rDNA data. The phenograms constructed from RAPD and rDNA data were not similar within the wild and cultivated cacao subsets.

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