Longevity, early emergence and body size in a pollinating fig wasp - implications for stability in a fig-pollinator mutualism
Dunn, D. W., Yu, D. W., Ridley, J. and Cook, J. M. (2008) Longevity, early emergence and body size in a pollinating fig wasp - implications for stability in a fig-pollinator mutualism. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77 (5). pp. 927-935. ISSN 0021-8790
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01416.x
1. Fig trees (Ficus) are pollinated only by agaonid wasps, whose larvae also gall fig ovules. Each ovule develops into either a seed (when pollinated) or a wasp (when an egg is also laid inside) but not both. 2. Ovipositing wasps (foundresses) favour ovules near the centre of the enclosed inflorescence (syconium or 'fig'), leaving ovules near the outer wall to develop into seeds. This spatial stratification of wasps and seeds ensures reproduction in both partners, and thereby enables mutualism persistence. However, the mechanism(s) responsible remain(s) unknown. 3. Theory shows that foundresses will search for increasingly rare inner ovules and ignore outer ovules, as long as ovipositing in outer ovules is sufficiently slow and/or if inner ovules confer greater fitness to wasps. The fig-pollinator mutualism can therefore be stabilized by strong time constraints on foundresses and by offspring fitness gradients over variation in ovule position. 4. Female fig wasps cannot leave their galls without male assistance. We found that females in outer ovules were unlikely to be released. Inner ovules thus have added value to foundresses, because their female offspring are more likely to mate and disperse. 5. For those offspring that did emerge, gall position (inner/outer) and body size did not influence the order in which female pollinators exited syconia, nor did early emerging wasps enjoy increased life spans. 6. We also found that the life spans of female wasps nearly doubled when given access to moisture. We suggest that conflict resolution in the fig-pollinator mutualism may thus be influenced by tropical seasonality, because wasps may be less able to over-exploit ovules in dry periods due to time constraints.