Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 18–28 | Cite as

History Matters: Oviposition Resource Acceptance in an Exploiter of a Nursery Pollination Mutualism

  • Pratibha Yadav
  • Sathish Desireddy
  • Srinivasan Kasinathan
  • Jean-Marie Bessière
  • Renee M. BorgesEmail author


In the fig–fig wasp nursery pollination system, parasitic wasps, such as gallers and parasitoids that oviposit from the exterior into the fig syconium (globular, enclosed inflorescence) are expected to use a variety of chemical cues for successful location of their hidden hosts. Behavioral assays were performed with freshly eclosed naive galler wasps. Syconia with different oviposition histories, i.e. with or without prior oviposition, were presented to wasps in no-choice assays and the time taken to the first oviposition attempt was recorded. The wasps exhibited a preference for syconia previously exposed to conspecifics for oviposition over unexposed syconia. Additionally, syconia exposed to oviposition by heterospecific wasps were also preferred for oviposition over unexposed syconia indicating that wasps recognise and respond to interspecific cues. Wasps also aggregated for oviposition on syconia previously exposed to oviposition by conspecifics. We investigated chemical cues that wasps may employ in accepting an oviposition resource by analyzing syconial volatile profiles, chemical footprints left by wasps on syconia, and syconial surface hydrocarbons. The volatile profile of a syconium is influenced by the identity of wasps developing within and may be used to identify suitable host syconia at long range whereas close range preference seems to exploit wasp footprints that alter syconium surface hydrocarbon profiles. These cues act as indicators of the oviposition history of the syconium, thereby helping wasps in their oviposition decisions.


Aggregation Fig wasps Footprints Host acceptance Pollinator Hydrocarbons Volatile organic compounds Herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) Floral volatiles (E)-β-ocimene Methyl salicylate 



This work was supported by funds from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Department of Science and Technology-FIST, Government of India. We thank the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research (IFCPAR) for supporting JMB’s travel. We thank Anusha Kumble and G Yathiraj for help in field work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecological SciencesIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.NCF Rainforest Research StationCoimbatoreIndia
  3. 3.Ecole Nationale Supérieure de ChimieMontpellierFrance

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