Detecting the elusive cost of parasites on fig seed production

Segar, Simon T.; Mardiastuti, Ani; Wheeler, Philip M. and Cook, James M. (2018). Detecting the elusive cost of parasites on fig seed production. Acta Oecologica, 90 pp. 69–74.



Mutualisms provide essential ecosystem functions such as pollination and contribute considerably to global biodiversity. However, they are also exploited by parasites that remove resources and thus impose costs on one or both of the mutualistic partners. The fig/pollinator interaction is a classic obligate mutualism; it is pantropical and involves >750 Ficus species and their host-specific pollinating wasps (family Agaonidae). Figs also host parasites of the mutualism that should consume pollinators or seeds, depending on their larval ecology. We collected data from a large crop of figs on Ficus glandifera var. brachysyce in a Sulawesi rainforest with an unusually high number of Eukoebelea sp. parasites. We found that these parasites have a significant negative correlation with fig seed production as well as with pollinator offspring production. Eukoebelea wasps form the basal genus in subfamily Sycophaginae (Chalcidoidea) and their larval biology is considered unknown. Our analysis suggests that they feed as flower gallers and impose direct costs on the fig tree, but a strategy including the consumption of pollinator larvae cannot be ruled out. We also present baseline data on the composition of the fig wasp community associated with F. glandifera var brachysyce and light trap catch data.

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