Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 283–295 | Cite as

Specific Attraction of Fig-Pollinating Wasps: Role of Volatile Compounds Released by Tropical Figs

  • Laure Grison-Pigé
  • Jean-Marie Bessière
  • Martine Hossaert-McKey


Floral scents often act as pollinator attractants. In the case of obligate and specific plant–pollinator relationships, the role of floral signals may be crucial in allowing the encounter of the partners. About 750 Ficus species (Moraceae) are involved in such interactions, each with a distinct species of pollinating wasp (Chalcidoidea, Agaonidae). Several species have been shown to release volatile compounds, but their role in pollinator attraction has rarely been simultaneously tested. We investigated the floral scents of four tropical fig species and combined chemical analysis with biological tests of stimulation of insects. Pollinators of three species were stimulated by the odor of their associated fig species and generally not by the odor of another species. The fourth actually comprised two distinct varieties. The main compound was often a different one in each species. Floral blends of different species always shared compounds, but ratios of these compounds varied among species.

Ficus Moraceae volatile compounds mutualism fig wasps bioassays 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, R. P. 1989. Identification of Essential Oils by Ion Trap Mass Spectroscopy. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, N. P. 1985. Evidence of a volatile attractant in Ficus ingens (Moraceae). Bothalia 15:607–611.Google Scholar
  3. Baur, R. and Feeny, P. 1995. Comparative electrophysiological analysis of plant odor perception in females of three Papilio species. Chemoecology 1:26–36.Google Scholar
  4. BergstrÖm, G., Birgersson, G., Groth, I., and Nilsson, L. A. 1992. Floral fragrance disparity between three taxa of lady's slipper Cypripedium calceolus (Orchidaceae). Phytochemistry 31:2315–2319.Google Scholar
  5. Berg, C. C. and Wiebes, J. T. 1992. African Fig Trees and FigWasps. Verkh. Kon. Ned. VanWetensch, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  6. Bestmann, H. J., Winkler, L., and Helversen, O. 1997. Headspace analysis of volatile flower scent constituents of bat-pollinated plants. Phytochemistry 46:1169–1172.Google Scholar
  7. Comption, S. G. 1990. A collapse of host specificity in some African fig wasps. Suid-Afr. Tyd. Wet. 86:39–40.Google Scholar
  8. Corner, E. J. H. 1965. Checklist of Ficus in Asia and Australia with keys to identification. Gard. Bull. Singapore 21:1–185.Google Scholar
  9. Dobson, H.E.M. 1994. Floral volatiles in insect biology. pp. 47–81, in E. A. Bernays (ed.). Insect-Plant Interactions. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.Google Scholar
  10. Dobson, H. E. M., Arroyo, J., BergstrÖm, G., and Groth, I. 1997. Interspecific variation in floral fragrances within the genus Narcissus (Amaryllidaceae). Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 25:685–706.Google Scholar
  11. Gibernau, M. 1997. Odeurs et spécificité dans les mutualismes figuier-pollinisateur: Le cas de Ficus carica L. et de Blastophaga psenes L. PhD dissertation. Montpellier University, Montpellier, France.Google Scholar
  12. Gibernau, M., Hossaert-Mckey, M., Frey, J. E., and Kjellberg, F. 1998. Are olfactory signals sufficient to attract fig pollinators? Ecoscience 5:306–311.Google Scholar
  13. Grison, L., Edwards, A. A., and Hossaert-McKey, M. 1999. Interspecies variation in floral fragrances emitted by tropical Ficus species. Phytochemistry 52:1293–1299.Google Scholar
  14. Grison-PigÉ, Bessiere, J. M., Turlings, T. C.J., Kjellberg, F., Roy, J., and Hossaert-Mckey, M. 2001. Limited interset mimiery of floral odour in Ficus carica. Functional Ecol. 15:551–558.Google Scholar
  15. Groth, I., BergstrÖm, G., and Pellmyr, O. 1987. Floral fragrances in Cimifuga: Chemical polymorphism and incipient speciation in Cimifuga simplex. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 15: 441–444.Google Scholar
  16. Guerin, P.M. and StÄdler, E. 1982. Host odor perception in three phytophagous Diptera-A comparative study. Proceedings, 5th International Symposium on Insect-Plant Relationships, pp. 95–105,Wageningen, Pudoc, Wageningen.Google Scholar
  17. Harrison, R. D. 1996. The ecology of the fig-fig wasp mutualism in a lowland tropical forest in Sarawak, Malaysia. MS thesis, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.Google Scholar
  18. Harrison, R. D. 2000. Repercussions of El Niño: Drought causes extinction and the breakdown of mutualism in Borneo. Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 267:911–915.Google Scholar
  19. Hossaert-Mckey, M., Gibernau, M., and Frey, J. E. 1994. Chemosensory attraction of fig wasps to substances produced by receptive figs. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 70:185–191.Google Scholar
  20. Hills, H. G., Williams, N. H., and Dodson, C. H. 1972. Floral fragrances and isolating mechanisms in the genus Catasetum (Orchidaceae). Biotropica 4:61–76.Google Scholar
  21. Janzen, D. H. 1979. How to be a fig. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 10:13–51.Google Scholar
  22. Kjellberg, F., Gouyon, P. H., Ibrahim, M., Raymond, M., and Valdeyron, G. 1987. The stability of the symbiosis between dioecious figs and their pollinators: A study of Ficus carica L. and Blastophaga psenes L. Evolution 41:693–704.Google Scholar
  23. Kjellberg, F., Doumesche, B., and Bronstein, J. L. 1988. Longevity of a fig wasp (Blastophaga psenes). Proc. K. Ned. Akad. Wet. 91:117–122.Google Scholar
  24. Moya, S. and Ackerman, J. D. 1993. Variation in the floral fragrance of Epidendrum ciliare (Orchidaceae). Nord. J. Bot. 13: 41–47.Google Scholar
  25. Nordlander, G., Eidmann, H. H., Jacobsson, U., Nordenhem, H., and SjÖdin, K. 1986. Orientation of the pine weevil Hylobius abietis to underground sources of host volatiles. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 41:91–100.Google Scholar
  26. Pellmyr, O. 1986. Three pollination morphs in Cimifuga simplex; incipient speciation due to inferiority in competition. Oecologia 68: 304–307.Google Scholar
  27. Pellmyr, O. and Thien, L. B. 1986. Insect reproduction and floral fragrances: Keys to the evolution of the angiosperms. Taxon 35:76–85.Google Scholar
  28. Pellmyr, O., Tang, W., Groth, I., BergstrÖm, G., and Thien, L. B. 1991. Cycad cones and Angiosperm floral volatiles: Inferences for the evolution of insect pollination. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 19:623–627.Google Scholar
  29. Pichersky, E., Raguso, R. A., Lewinsohn, E., and Croteau, R. 1994. Floral scent production in Clarkia (Onagraceae). 1-Localization and developmental modulation of monoterpene emission and linalool synthase activity. Plant Physiol. 106:1533–1540.Google Scholar
  30. Roseland, C. R., Bates, M. B., Carlson, R. B., and Oseto, C. Y. 1992. Discrimination of sunflower volatiles by the red sunflower seed weevil. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 62: 99–106.Google Scholar
  31. Roy, B. A. and Raguso, R.A. 1997. Olfactory versus visual cues in a floral mimicry system. Oecologia 109:414–426.Google Scholar
  32. SAS. 1999. Version 8 SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina.Google Scholar
  33. Turlings, T., Tumlinson, J. H., Heath, R. R., Proveaux, A. T., and Doolittle, R. E. 1991. Isolation and identification of allelochemicals that attract the larval parasitoid, Cotesia marginiventris (cresson), to the microhabitat of one of its hosts. J. Chem. Ecol. 17:2235–2251.Google Scholar
  34. Van Noort, S., Ware, A. B., and Compton, S. G. 1989. Pollinator-specific volatile attractants released from figs of Ficus burtt-davyi. S. Afr. J. Sci. C 85:323–324.Google Scholar
  35. Vet, L. E. M., Van Lenteren, J. C., Heymans, M., and Meelis, E. 1983. An airflow olfactometer for measuring olfactory responses of hymenopterous parasitoids and other small insects. Physiol. Entomol. 8:97–106.Google Scholar
  36. VISSER, J. H. 1986. Host odor perception in phytophagous insects. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 21:121–144.Google Scholar
  37. Ware, A. B. and Compton, S. G. 1994. Responses of fig wasps to host plant volatile cues. J. Chem. Ecol. 23:785–802.Google Scholar
  38. Ware, A. B., Kaye, P. T., Compton, S. G., and Van Noort, S. 1993. Fig volatiles: Their role in attracting pollinators and maintaining pollinator specificity. Plant Syst. Evol. 186:147–156.Google Scholar
  39. Weiblen, G. D. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships of functionally dioecious Ficus (Moraceae) based on ribosomal DNA sequences and morphology. Am. J. Bot. 87:1342–1357.Google Scholar
  40. Wiebes, J. T. 1979. Co-evolution of figs and their insect pollinators. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 10:1–12.Google Scholar
  41. Williams, N. H. and Dodson, C. H. 1971. Selective attraction of male euglossine bees to orchid floral fragrances and its importance in long distance pollen flow. Evolution 26:84–95.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laure Grison-Pigé
    • 1
  • Jean-Marie Bessière
    • 2
  • Martine Hossaert-McKey
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive-CNRSMontpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Laboratoire de chimie appliquéeEcole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de MontpellierMontpellier Cedex 5France

Personalised recommendations