Mutualism: Fig wasps and fig trees
Fig wasps (Agaonidae) are a species of wasps that have a life span of a couple of days and could be as little as 2mm in length. Hence the name these wasps are sole pollinators of fig trees (Ficus), each fig tree species has its own particular wasp for pollination. Fig trees are totally dependent on fig wasps for pollination and have been for the past 60 million years, this shows that this process of pollinating is efficient and sustainable creating equilibrium between the two populations. Fig wasps also benefit from this unaware pollination as they only breed in the figs. So without the other party neither would survive and become extinct. If neither exists this would impact the ecosystem on a huge scale as other organism which depend on these two populations would be equally affected including habitats and disruptions in food chains which could lead to other problems. While some fig wasps benefit the fig tree and vise versa there are also non-pollinating fig wasps which are parasitic. Even so both kinds have a highly similar life cycle.
When a fig tree is receptive for pollination it releases volatiles: specific chemicals to attract its main pollinator; the female wasps. When the fig has successfully emitted the aroma and magnetized its specific female wasp she gains access into the fig through a tiny opening or the mouth of the fig called the ‘ostiole’. It is a torturing method even for a miniscule wasp to squeeze her way through, but with the adaptation that has evolved over the period 60 million years they have developed a long and flat body. The difficulty of getting into the fig often results in broken wings; however, this does not affect their pollinating or egg-laying ability as they quickly die after the eggs are laid and won’t need them again. The female wasps lay down eggs inside the gall’s (fig flowers) future seeds that would nourish the larvae (young wasps) while spreading pollen from its birth fig. The...
Bibliography: Moisset B. 2009. Fig Wasps
http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/fig_wasp.shtml (Accessed: 20th September 2009)
Noort S. 2009. Interaction of Figs and Fig Wasps.
http://www.figweb.org/interaction/ (Accessed: 20th September 2009)
(Accessed: 20th September 2009)
http://waynesword.palomar.edu/gallfig.htm (Accessed: 20th September 2009)
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