Angiosperm resurrection plants exhibit poikilo- or homoiochlorophylly as a response to water deficit. Both strategies are generally considered as effective mechanisms to reduce oxidative stress associated with photosynthetic activity under water deficiency. The mechanism of water deficit-induced chlorophyll (Chl) degradation in resurrection plants is unknown but has previously been suggested to occur as a result of non-enzymatic photooxidation. We investigated Chl degradation during dehydration in both poikilochlorophyllous (Xerophyta viscosa) and homoiochlorophyllous (Craterostigma pumilum) species. We demonstrate an increase in the abundance of PHEOPHORBIDE a OXYGENASE (PAO), a key enzyme of Chl breakdown, together with an accumulation of phyllobilins, that is, products of PAO-dependent Chl breakdown, in both species. Phyllobilins and PAO levels diminished again in leaves from rehydrated plants. We conclude that water deficit-induced poikilochlorophylly occurs via the well-characterized PAO/phyllobilin pathway of Chl breakdown and that this mechanism also appears conserved in a resurrection species displaying homoiochlorophylly. The roles of the PAO/phyllobilin pathway during different plant developmental processes that involve Chl breakdown, such as leaf senescence and desiccation, fruit ripening and seed maturation, are discussed.