Floral constraint resulting from intersexual mimicry in a gynodioecious fig tree

Research paper by Shazia Raja, Nazia Suleman, Stephen G. Compton

Indexed on: 14 Jun '16Published on: 13 Jun '16Published in: Entomological Science


Fig trees (Ficus: Moraceae) are pollinated by female fig wasps (Agaonidae) whose larvae develop inside galled flowers of unusual inflorescences (figs). Most fig trees also support communities of non‐pollinating fig wasps. Figs of different species display great size variation and contain tens to tens of thousands of flowers. Around one‐half the species of fig trees have the gynodioecious breeding system, where female trees have figs that produce seeds and male trees have figs that support development of pollinators. Mutual mimicry between receptive male and female figs ensures that pollinators enter female figs, even though the insects will die without reproducing, but the need to give no sex‐specific cues to the pollinators may constrain differences in size between receptive male and female figs. We compared relationships between inflorescence size and some measures of reproductive success in male and female figs of Ficus montana grown under controlled conditions in the presence of the pollinator Kradibia tentacularis and its main parasitoid Sycoscapter sp. indesc. Female figs that contained more flowers produced more seeds, but male figs did not increase the production of female pollinator K. tentacularis fig wasps in proportion of the flower number. Although more flowers were galled by the pollinators in male figs containing more female flowers, the high larval mortality caused by parasitism and nutritional limitation prevented the increase in the production of adult female offspring. Selection may favor the increase in flower numbers within figs in female plants of F. montana, but contrarily constrain this attribute in male plants.