Local adaptation of a holoparasitic plant, Cuscuta europaea: variation among populations


Tanja Koskela Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, FIN-40351 Jyväskylä, Finland. Tel.: +358 14 260 2244; fax: +358 14 260 2321; e-mail: tamattil@cc.jyu.fi


Locally adapted parasites have higher infectivity and/or fitness on sympatric than on allopatric hosts. We tested local adaptation of a holoparasitic plant, Cuscuta europaea, to its host plant, Urtica dioica. We infected hosts from five sites with holoparasites from the same five sites and measured local adaptation in terms of infectivity and parasite performance (biomass) in a reciprocal cross-infection experiment. The virulence of the parasite did not differ between sympatric and allopatric hosts. Overall, parasites had higher infectivity on sympatric hosts but infectivity and parasite performance varied among populations. Parasites from one of the populations showed local adaptation in terms of performance, whereas parasites from one of the populations had higher infectivity on allopatric hosts compared with sympatric hosts. This among-population variation may be explained by random variation in parasite adaptation to host populations or by time-lagged co-evolutionary oscillations that lead to fluctuations in the level of local adaptation.