The arid Western Rajasthan, where the Thar Desert of India is immersed, is mostly covered by sand dunes, a common landscape. The region has confronted with fragilities of natural resources, low, erratic and ill-distributed rainfall, and is covered up with many perennial hardy shrubs. Calligonum polygonoides, the most common perennial shrub, is widely present in some localities of this Thar Desert. In this study, we evaluated the diversity present among 54 wild Calligonum polygonoides plants, sampled from eight different locations within the Thar Desert. Our methods included chemical/nutritional characteristics and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD). Both chemical and molecular methods produced wider range of diversity, however, RAPD detected comparatively more diversity. A total of 163 band positions were produced by ten RAPD primers, of which 147 were found polymorphic with 90.18% polymorphism. RAPD-based Jaccard’s similarity coefficients ranged from 0.43-0.89. The analysis of various chemical and mineral constituents revealed that phog is an excellent source of calcium, potassium and phosphorous while relatively poor in zinc. Among minerals, average potassium content was found maximum (2 430mg/100g) with 0.14 CV. Zinc was observed comparably less in quantity while highest variable with CV 0.73. The chemical-based Manhattan dissimilarity coefficient values ranged from 0.01-0.22 with an average of 0.12. The comparison of the clusters obtained based on the chemical and mineral parameters with those of the RAPD data showed that the groups formed in both cases showed different patterns of relationships among the samples. Broader range of diversity might be due to the out breeding behavior of C. polygonoides and indicates the good adaptability of the plants in the region studied. However, low diversity observed in the Bikaner province is alarming and suggests that anthropogenic activities leading to heavy population disturbances can affect the genetic composition of the species in a considerable way.
Keywords: chemical diversity, RAPD, nutritional parameters, Calligonum polygonoides