Correlated evolution of life history and host range in the nonphotosynthetic parasitic flowering plants Orobanche and Phelipanche (Orobanchaceae)


Gerald M. Schneeweiss, Department of Biogeography and Botanical Garden, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.
Tel.: +43-1-4277-54062; fax: +43-1-4277-9541; e-mail:


Most members of the nonphotosynthetic parasitic genera Orobanche and Phelipanche (Orobanchaceae) have narrow host ranges, and, as they grow on perennial hosts, are (at least potentially) perennial themselves. A few species, however, have wide host ranges and grow on annual hosts, and are thus (at least facultatively) annuals themselves. Among the latter are the weedy species, which include economically important pest taxa such as Orobanche crenata or Phelipanche aegyptiaca. Using a phylogenetically based maximum likelihood approach, which takes phylogenetic and branch length uncertainty into account, we can show that the life trait host range and life history evolve in a correlated fashion. This supports the hypothesis that parasite specialization is associated with predictable resources (i.e. long-lived hosts) and generalism with unpredictable ones (i.e. short-lived hosts), a pattern often found in animal parasites. The mechanisms and temporal sequence of the life trait changes and their interrelations remain speculative.