Only pollinator fig wasps have males that collaborate to release their females from figs of an Asian fig tree

Nazia Suleman, Shazia Raja, Stephen G. Compton

Abstract

Male insects rarely collaborate with each other, but pollinator fig wasps (Hymenoptera: Agaonidae) are said to be an exception. Immature fig wasps feed on galled ovules located inside figs, the inflorescences of Ficus species (Moraceae). After mating, adult pollinator males chew communal exit-holes that allow mated females (which are often also their siblings) to escape. Figs also support non-pollinating fig wasps (NPFWs), some of which produce exit-holes independently. We determined whether collaboration between pollinator males (Kradibia tentacularis from Ficus montana) was necessary for the release of their females, and used the relationship between male numbers and likelihood of success to measure the extent of cooperation during exit-hole production. These attributes were then compared with those of an NPFW (Sycoscapter sp.) from the same host plant. Pollinators were more abundant than NPFW, but their more female-biased sex ratio meant male pollinator densities were only slightly higher. Individual males of both species could produce an exit-hole. Single males of the NPFW were just as successful as single male pollinators, but only male pollinators cooperated effectively, becoming more successful as their numbers increased. The lack of cooperation among NPFW may be linked to their earlier period of intense inter-male aggression.

  • Received October 20, 2011.
  • Accepted November 8, 2011.
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