The tropical dry forest is a greatly endangered ecosystem, from which Jacaratia mexicana is a native tree. With the aim to assess the levels of genetic variation and population structure, four wild populations of J. mexicana were studied in the Sierra de Huautla Biosphere Reserve, Morelos, Mexico. For this, DNA was extracted from 159 individuals and were amplified with six random primers using the Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD). A total of 54 bands were obtained, of which 50 (92.6%) were polymorphic. The total genetic diversity found within the four populations was 0.451 when estimated by Shannon's index. An AMOVA analysis showed that 84% of the total genetic variation was found within populations and 16% was among populations. The UPGMA dendrogram showed that all individuals from one of the populations (Huaxtla) formed one distinct genetic group, while the rest of the individuals did not cluster according to population. A Mantel test did not show an association between genetic and geographical distances among populations (r=0.893, p=0.20). A Bayesian cluster analysis performed with STRUCTURE, showed that the most probable number of genetic groups in the data was four (K=4), and confirmed the distinctness of Huaxtla population. Our results showed that important genetic differentiation among populations can occur even at this small geographic scale and this has to be considered in conservation actions for this genetic resource.

Keywords: jacaratia mexicana, caricaceae, genetic diversity, population structure, bayesian methods, rapds