Evol Ecol Res 10: 611-620 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

A species of fig tree and three unrelated fig wasp pollinators

Feng-Ping Zhang,1,2 Yan-Qiong Peng,1 Jun-Ming Guan1,2 and Da-Rong Yang1*

1Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming and 2Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: yangdr@xtbg.ac.cn


Background and question: A few non-agaonid wasps can enter figs to oviposit and effectively pollinate their fig hosts. In Xishuangbanna (Yunnan, SW China), Ficus curtipes is passively pollinated by an undescribed Eupristina species (Agaonidae). Two species of non-agaonid fig wasps, Diaziella yangi and Lipothymus sp., also enter the fig to oviposit. Yet such wasps do not establish a mutualistic relationship with figs similar to that of agaonids. Why?

Method: Using controlled experiments in which only one foundress per species was introduced to a fig, we compared the effect of the three wasp species on pollination. We recorded foundress distribution in the fig female floral phase, and counted the number of wasps and seeds in the male floral phase.

Results: Diaziella yangi and Lipothymus sp. follow Eupristina sp. into the figs, and both non-agaonids are efficient pollinators. In nature, most figs were entered by just one species of foundress: 36% were entered by Eupristina sp. only, 8% by D. yangi only, and 3% by Lipothymus sp. only. About 28% of adult fig wasps emerging from figs were D. yangi, 4% were Lipothymus sp., and 65% were Eupristina sp.; ten other non-agaonids ovipositing from outside the fig comprised just 3% of the adult wasps that emerged from figs. Both species of fig-entering non-agaonid wasps significantly reduced the number of Eupristina sp. emerging from mature figs but had no effect on seed production. If D. yangi or Lipothymus sp. was introduced to figs containing one foundress of Eupristina sp., both non-agaonid wasps produced offspring. But without the Eupristina, D. yangi and Lipothymus sp. failed to reproduce. Diaziella yangi and Lipothymus sp. depend on the agaonid, Eupristina, to make galls.

Conclusion: Because they depend on the legitimate pollinator to make galls, neither D. yangi nor Lipothymus sp. is able to replace the agaonid wasp and establish a mutualistic relationship with their host fig.

Keywords: Ficus, mutualism, non-pollinating fig wasps, parasitism, pollinating fig wasp.

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