Fig and wasp mutualism relationship

Fig wasp - Wikipedia

fig and wasp mutualism relationship

The tree and the wasp share a mutualistic relationship, with the wasps pollinating fig trees' flowers and the trees, in return, providing wasps with. “Figs and the wasps that pollinate them present one of biologists' favorite examples of a beneficial relationship between two different species. By Peter Moon | Agência FAPESP – The mutualistic relationship between figs and the fig wasps that pollinate them is one of the most.

That's where the fig wasp comes in," he explained. The five phases of the cycle Inside the fig, there are female and male flowers that develop at different times. The A phase occurs when the female flowers are not yet mature. They soon mature and are ready to be fertilized. They become receptive to the wasps and release a scent made up of a huge amount of volatile compounds, triggering the B phase.

Each fig receptacle is not entirely closed, but has a small hole called an ostiole, through which the female wasp penetrates its interior. As it does so, it loses its wings and its antennae are broken, so that it cannot get out again. It lays its eggs and dies. The lifecycles of figs and fig wasps are studied as a way of understanding the evolution of mutualism.

fig and wasp mutualism relationship

Coelho Once inside the fig, the female wasp lays eggs in many of the flowers but not all. At the same time, it fertilizes the flowers with pollen stored in a pouch on the underside of its thorax. Now begins the C phase, which lasts two to three months. The flowers that receive pollen but no eggs develop into seeds. Flowers that receive eggs undergo a transformation to become hardened structures called galls, becoming nurseries with food and shelter for wasp larvae.

The D phase occurs at the end of larval incubation. This is also when the male flowers start to mature, opening up to expose pollen containers known as anthers.

Do Figs Really Have Dead Wasps In Them?

The first wasps to emerge from the galls are wingless males with reduced eyes but large strong mandibles," Palmieri said.

The male penetrates the female with a telescopic penis and fertilizes the female inside the gall. Once they have mated in this way, the males use their mandibles to bite through the fig wall.

fig and wasp mutualism relationship

They then go out through the hole, fall to the ground and die. Leaving the receptacle through the hole made by their brothers, the fertilized females fly away in search of other fig trees, and the cycle begins again.

The E phase consists of seed dispersal through the feces scattered by the vertebrates that feeds from figs. The proposed F phase Evidence of the new F phase began to appear over the course of years of observation. These figs were discarded and left out of the research. In some cases, larvae that were almost the same size as the fig had eaten almost its entire contents. That's when we decided to investigate what was going on," Palmieri said.

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In the article just published, I describe insects belonging to five orders and 24 different families that are not fig wasps but that also interact with figs, performing different functions. These insects may colonize figs during different phases of the tree's lifecycle. Some rely on fallen figs to complete their development. Palmieri divided the insects into two categories according to their role in the fig tree's ecology and their potential impact on its reproduction. He called the categories "early fig interlopers" and "fallen fig fauna.

What Is the Symbiotic Relationship between Fig Wasps & Figs?

This tree is monoecious—that is, both male and female flowers are present in the same syconium in the same tree. The female flowers mature first and, when they are ready to receive pollen, volatile fragrances waft out from the syconium, attracting the fig wasp. Drawn by the scent, a female wasp carrying pollen from its previous host enters the syconium through a tiny opening in the centre.

The fig wasp, about 2mm in size, can easily pass through the eye of a needle, but the syconium opening is even narrower. As it enters, its wings break off and its abdomen gets squished as it makes its long slow crawl into the syconium. Deepa Padmanaban The fig tree then closes the opening and seals it with an antiseptic liquid to prevent other insects from getting in—in the process, turning it into a death trap for the wasp.

fig and wasp mutualism relationship

Once inside, the wasp lays its eggs in the female flowers, simultaneously depositing the pollen. Tired and wounded from the long gruelling journey down the syconium, the wasp is on its last leg of life. After the eggs hatch, these galls provide food and shelter for the young offspring. Gupta, the doctoral student, plucked one of the synconia from the tree, deftly splitting it into two. Inside, I could see hundreds of fat swollen galls, each probably nurturing eggs inside.

A few that had already hatched were feeding on the galls. Deepa Padmanaban Once these offspring attain adulthood, the male and female wasps mate within the fig; the blind and wingless male wasps then cut an opening, allowing the female wasp to fly out.

fig and wasp mutualism relationship

Around the same time, the male flowers are getting ready. The female wasps collect the pollen from the male flower and leave, starting another life cycle.

Mutualism: The intimate relationship between fig trees and fig wasps | Wildlife TV

The syconium now contains only lifeless and wingless male wasps and goes on to ripen. The mature fruit containing fully developed seeds are consumed by birds and monkeys, which also help in the dispersal of seeds. This entire cycle lasts for about two months. So, the research team surveys all the fig trees on campus once a week in order to keep a check on the phase of the tree. This is important for them to design and conduct experiments and to avoid missing the stages of both the wasp and syconium development.

Borges and her team have been studying the scents that emanate from the syconium, which play a vital role in attracting the fig wasps. In their latest research, the team found that certain type of fig trees have evolved a different strategy—one that tilts the balance of the relationship in their favour.

These fig trees are dioecious—the male and female flowers are present separately on different trees, unlike the monoecious trees where both male and female flowers are present in the same tree.

In these species, wasps develop in male flowers but cannot develop in female flowers as they have long stalks inside, so the female wasp cannot reach into the ovaries to lay eggs and gall the flowers. Borges and her team found that in these fig trees, when the male and female trees flower synchronously, the female figs deceptively attract wasps by mimicking the scent of the male flowers.

The female wasps are tricked into entering the synocium, but they cannot lay eggs and end up dying in vain. The female flower, however, is pollinated and goes on to produce seeds. The fig tree is commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical forests. At any given time, fig trees are always producing fruit, and sometimes are the only fruit available to animals and birds.

The fig is a keystone species—it plays a unique and crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and population density. Like the stone at the centre of the arch that keeps it from crumbling, without the keystone species, the ecosystem could change or even fall apart. And the propagation of the fig tree depends on its mutualistic relationship with the fig wasp. For a stable mutualism to exist, the overall net benefit has to be greater than the cost.

The fig has a feedback system: The fig tree can also regulate the number of wasps it lets into the syconium, but it is not yet clear how. The fig-wasp system is complex, one not completely understood yet.