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- Author or Editor: Qinghua Yang x
Corylus heterophylla and Corylus kweichowensis are economically and ecologically important nut-producing woody shrubs that are distributed across northern and southern regions of China. However, few studies have examined the genetic diversity and genetic relationships between C. heterophylla and C. kweichowensis, and their taxonomic relationships have been questioned. In this study, 796 individuals collected from 34 natural populations (21 C. heterophylla and 13 C. kweichowensis populations) were investigated to assess the genetic diversity and population structure using 11 microsatellite loci. Analysis of molecular variance revealed that genetic differentiation of C. heterophylla and C. kweichowensis within populations accounted for 93.57% and 88.91% of total variation, respectively. The C. heterophylla and C. kweichowensis populations as a whole group were analyzed by multiple programs, which showed that the 34 populations were divided into two genetic clusters. One cluster included 21 C. heterophylla populations, and the second cluster contained 13 C. kweichowensis populations. We conclude from these results that C. heterophylla and C. kweichowensis are distinct species. The Mantel test showed that the genetic distance was significantly correlated with the geographic distance (r = 0.580, P < 0.001). The populations of C. heterophylla [e.g., populations WC (Weichang), MS (Mishan), and WA (Wu’an)] and C. kweichowensis [e.g., populations YX (Yuexi), ZP (Zhenping), LA (Lin’an), and TB (Taibai)] with high allelic richness are considered suitable for in situ conservation. Our study provides valuable information for breeding and conservation of genetic resources of C. heterophylla, C. kweichowensis, and related species.