[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The host-specific relationship between fig trees (Ficus) and their pollinator wasps (Agaonidae) is a classic case of obligate mutualism. Pollinators reproduce within highly specialised inflorescences (figs) of fig trees that depend on the pollinator offspring for the dispersal of their pollen. About half of all fig trees are functionally dioecious, with separate male and female plants responsible for separate sexual functions. Pollen and the fig wasps that disperse it are produced within male figs, whereas female figs produce only seeds. Figs vary greatly in size between different species, with female flower numbers varying from tens to many thousands. Within species, the number of female flowers present in each fig is potentially a major determinant of the numbers of pollinator offspring and seeds produced. We recorded variation in female flower numbers within male and female figs of the dioecious Ficus montana growing under controlled conditions, and assessed the sources and consequences of inflorescence size variation for the reproductive success of the plants and their pollinator (Kradibia tentacularis). Female flower numbers varied greatly within and between plants, as did the reproductive success of the plants, and their pollinators. The numbers of pollinator offspring in male figs and seeds in female figs were positively correlated with female flower numbers, but the numbers of male flowers and a parasitoid of the pollinator were not. The significant variation in flower number among figs produced by different individuals growing under uniform conditions indicates that there is a genetic influence on inflorescence size and that this character may be subject to selection.
Plant Systematics and Evolution 03/2013; 229(5):927-934. · 1.31 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Floral longevity reflects a balance between gains in pollinator visitation and the costs of flower maintenance. Because rewards to pollinators change over time, older flowers may be less attractive, reducing the value of extended longevity. Un-pollinated figs, the inflorescences of Ficus species, can remain receptive for long periods, but figs that are older when entered by their host-specific fig wasp pollinators produce fewer seeds and fig wasp offspring. Our field experiments with Ficushispida, a dioecious fig tree, examined how the length of time that receptive figs have remained un-pollinated influences the behaviour and reproductive success of its short-lived fig wasp pollinator, Ceratosolensolmsi marchali. The results were consistent in three different seasons, and on male and female trees, although receptivity was greatly extended during colder months. Pollinators took longer to find the ostioles of older figs, and longer to penetrate them. They also became increasingly unwilling to enter figs as they aged, and increasing numbers of the wasps became trapped in the ostiolar bracts. Larger individuals were particularly unwilling to enter older figs, resulting in older figs being pollinated by smaller wasps. On female trees, where figs produce only seeds, seed production declined rapidly with fig age. On male trees, the numbers and size of fig wasp offspring declined, and a higher proportion were male. Older male figs are harder to enter, especially for larger individuals, and offer poorer quality oviposition opportunities. This study opens an interesting new perspective on the coevolution of figs and their pollinators, especially factors influencing pollinator body size and emphasises the subtleties of interactions between mutualists.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(9):e74117. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fig trees (Ficus spp., Moraceae) and their associated obligate pollinator fig wasps (Agaonidae) are partners in what is often a pair-wise species–specific association. Their interaction centres on the unique enclosed inflorescence of Ficus species – the fig. Among dioecious fig tree species, only pollinated ovules in figs on female trees develop into seeds. On male trees, galled ovules support development of the fig wasp offspring that will transport their pollen, but no seeds develop. Some fig wasp species actively collect and disperse pollen, whereas others are typical insect pollinators in that pollen is transferred passively. Active pollination is associated with improved larval survivorship in pollinated figs. Because active pollination is much more efficient, their host figs need to contain far fewer male flowers and across numerous Ficus species anther-ovule ratios are a good predictor of pollination mode. We examined variation in inflorescence size and floral ratios among male figs of the Asian Ficusmontana and its consequences for the amounts of pollen that would be available for each pollinator to collect. Inflorescence size (total flower number) was highly variable, and female pollinator offspring production was higher in figs with more female flowers. Pollinator offspring numbers and anther-ovule ratios were also highly variable, and encompassed the range typical of both actively and passively pollinated fig tree species. In combination, this variation resulted in large differences in the extent to which pollinators were competing for access to pollen, with potential fitness consequences for both partners in the mutualism.
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