, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 459-464
Date: 03 May 2013

Figs as a Global Spiritual and Material Resource for Humans

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Introduction

The figs (Ficus: Moraceae) contain about 750 species spread throughout the tropics and subtropics worldwide, with approximately 500 of these in the Asian-Australasian area, 130 in the Neotropics and 110 in Africa (Berg 1989; Janzen 1979). Ecological scientists have long been fascinated by the diversity of this genus (Janzen 1979), recognizing the interplay between figs and animals as a dynamic mutualism. This perspective has been driven by the remarkable reproductive strategy of figs, whose fruit (syconium) is the site of an obligate mutualism with pollinating fig wasps of the family Agaonidae (Herre et al.2008). Due to this mutualism, figs have evolved to produce very large crops of fruit at short intervals that favor the continuous development of their wasp mutualists (Janzen 1979). This combination of large fruit crops and regular fruiting makes fig trees important resources for many frugivores (Shanahan et al.2001; Terborgh 1986), and it has been suggested that figs are