Dr Christopher Thorogood

Contact details

School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UG
phone: +44 (0)117 928 7470
fax: +44 (0)117 331 7985
e-mail: Chris.Thorogood@bristol.ac.uk

Research interests

Speciation in Parasitic Plants

Parasitic flowering plants have fascinated scientists for centuries, yet much of their evolutionary biology remains a mystery. Often, the evolutionary shift to parasitism has been associated with the degeneration of morphological features traditionally used in plant classification, which has made systematic studies of relationships between parasitic plants and their photosynthetic ancestors extremely challenging. Molecular phylogenetic techniques are now giving exciting insights into the evolutionary relationships between parasitic plants and their photosynthetic ancestors, however the speciation processes within most parasitic plant families still receive inadequate systematic attention.

My research focuses on the potential for host specificity to isolate populations of parasitic plants from gene flow, and drive their speciation. Although host-driven speciation processes have been well documented in leaf-eating insects and plant pathogens, the possibility that host-driven speciation also occurs in parasitic plants has remained relatively unexplored. My research uses the experimentally tractable model Orobanche minor (common broomrape) to address the hypothesis that speciation in parasitic plants can be driven by shifts in host preference, using molecular markers, combined with experiments in which host specificity is characterised and quantified. Ultimately my goal is to characterise host-specific, morphologically cryptic species of Orobanche using a molecular phylogenetic approach, which will offer a framework for setting conservation priorities for these taxonomically difficult plants. Studying patterns of genetic divergence among host-specific populations of species such as O. minor will provide a useful model for studying evolution in parasitic plants - one of the most curious and poorly understood groups in the plant kingdom.

Recent publications

  • Thorogood CJ, Hiscock SJ in press. Compatibility interactions at the cellular level provide the basis for host specificity in the parasitic plant Orobanche. New Phytologist.
  • Thorogood CJ, Hiscock SJ, 2010. 'Host specificity and speciation in parasitic plants,' In Rutgers (Ed.), Phylogeography: Concepts, Intraspecific Patterns and Speciation Processes. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Thorogood CJ, 2010. The Malaysian Nepenthes: Evolutionary and Taxonomic Perspectives. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Thorogood CJ, Hiscock SJ, 2010. Specific developmental pathways underlie host specificity in the parasitic plant Orobanche. Plant Signaling and Behaviour, 14: 5(3).
  • Thorogood CJ, Rumsey FJ, Hiscock SJ, 2009. Seed viability determination in parasitic broomrapes (Orobanche and Phelipanche) using fluorescein diacetate staining. Weed Research 49: 461-468.
  • Thorogood CJ, Rumsey FJ, Harris S and Hiscock SJ, 2009. Host-mediated gene flow in the parasitic angiosperm Orobanche minor (Orobanchaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution.
  • Thorogood CJ, 2008. Host specificity and speciation in parasitic plants. Haustorium, 54: 1-3.
  • Thorogood CJ, Rumsey FJ, Hiscock SJ, 2008. Host-specific races in the holoparasitic angiosperm Orobanche minor: implications for speciation in parasitic plants. Annals of Botany. 103: 1005-1014.
  • Thorogood CJ, Rumsey FJ, Harris S and Hiscock SJ, 2008. Host driven divergence in the parasitic plant Orobanche minor sm. Molecular Ecology. 17: 4289-4303.
  • Thorogood CJ, Hiscock SJ, 2007. Host Specificity in the Parasitic Plant Cytinus hypocistis. Research Letters in Ecology. 84234.