The evolution and determinants of host specificity in Lamellodiscus species (Monogenea, Diplectanidae) were investigated. The 20 known Mediterranean species were studied, all parasites of fishes from the family Sparidae (Teleostei). An index of specificity, which takes into account the phylogenetic relationships of their fish host species, was defined. The link between specificity and its potential determinants was investigated in a phylogenetic context using the method of independent contrasts. Host specificity in Lamellodiscus species appeared to be highly constrained by phylogeny, but also linked to host size. Mapping specificity onto the parasite phylogenetic tree suggests that specialist species do not represent an evolutionary dead end, and that specialization is not a derived condition. It is hypothesized that the ability to be generalist or specialist in Lamellodiscus is controlled by intrinsic, phylogenetically-related characteristics, and that specialist species tend to use large hosts, which may be more predictable. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society , 2002, 77, 431−443.