, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 199-205
Date: 20 Jan 2012

Exchange of hosts: can agaonid fig wasps reproduce successfully in the figs of non-host Ficus?

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Abstract

In the obligate mutualism between figs (Ficus) and their specific pollinators (Chalcidoidea, Agaonidae), each species of fig wasp typically reproduces in figs of a single host species. Host specificity is maintained largely because pollinators are attracted to tree-specific volatiles released from their host figs, but whether the wasps can reproduce if they enter figs of non-host species is unclear. We investigated the reproductive success of Ceratosolen emarginatus (associated with Ficus auriculata) and Ceratosolen sp. (associated with F. hainanensis) in atypical hosts by experimentally introducing foundresses into host and non-host figs. F. auriculata figs entered by Ceratosolen sp. were more likely to abort than if entered by C. emarginatus, but abortion of F. hainanensis figs was not affected by pollinator species. Single C. emarginatus foundresses produced more but smaller offspring in F. hainanensis than in their normal host. Conversely Ceratosolen sp. produced fewer but larger offspring in F. auriculata than in their normal host, probably as a result of having longer to develop. Mean style length differences, relative to the lengths of the wasps’ ovipositors, may have dictated the number of offspring produced, with oviposition made easier by the shorter styles in F. hainanensis figs. Our results imply that, in addition to morphological constraints and tree-specific volatiles, reduced reproductive success in atypical hosts can be another factor maintaining host specificity, but for other species only behavioural changes are required for host switching to occur.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje