Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 172, Issue 1–4, pp 1–12 | Cite as

A study of genetic diversity among host-specific populations of the witchweedStriga hermonthica (Scrophulariaceae) in Africa

  • Bharathalakshmi
  • Charles R. Werth
  • Lytton J. Musselman


Striga hermonthica is a root hemiparasite that attacks onlyGramineae, includingSorghum and millet for which it is a principal cause of lowered yield. Enzyme electrophoresis was used to investigate genetic diversity inStriga hermonthica and to determine the level of differentiation between host-specialized populations. Nine genetic loci coding eight enzymes were interpreted and data obtained from three populations: oneSorghum-adapted population from Sudan and two populations from Burkina Faso, oneSorghum-adapted and the other millet-adapted. Levels of polymorphism were similarly high in all three populations (P=0.625, A=2.6−2.8, H=0.293−0.401). Genotypic frequencies at most loci conformed to Hardy-Weinberg expectations in each population, consistent with outcrossing as predicted from previous studies of floral biology. Occasional heterozygote deficiencies were probably the result of Wahlund effect. The mean value of FST over the three populations was 0.068, indicating a slight to moderate level of genetic differentiation among the populations. The two Burkina Faso populations were more closely related (S=0.940, D=0.006) than either was to the Sudan population, suggesting that geographic separation is more important than host specialization in contributing to population differentiation. TheSorghum-adapted population was slightly closer to the Burkina FasoSorghum-adapted population (S=0.873, D=0.047) than to Burkina Faso millet-adapted population (S=0.851, D=0.074). The absence of substantial genetic divergence between host-specific populations ofStriga could result either from recent evolution of host-specialized strains or from strong selection for physiological specialization in the face of substantial gene flow between the populations.

Key words

Angiosperms Scrophulariaceae Striga hermonthica Hemiparasitism hostspecificity enzyme electrophoresis genetic diversity Flora of Burkina Faso Sudan 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bharathalakshmi
    • 1
  • Charles R. Werth
    • 2
  • Lytton J. Musselman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological ScienceTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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