Figs and Fig Wasps | HowStuffWorks
What a weird and wonderful symbiotic relationship! More on figs and wasps: World's Oldest Fig Wasp Discovered - Live Science. Had you ever heard of 3 Ways to Soften Butter Quickly and Easily · Jamie Oliver's Chicken. Figs are not actually fruits but a mass of inverted flowers and seeds that are pollinated by a species of tiny symbiotic wasps. The male fig flower. Figs and fig wasps have a special relationship that is essential to their mutual survival. The fig provides a home for the wasp and the wasp provides the pollen.
New phase proposed in the relationship between figs and wasps
Each forms gall tissue around the developing grub, which the grub then feeds on to nourish its growth. Adult male wasps are the first to emerge from their pupal cases. They are small, brown, blunt-headed, wingless insects, often carrying their abdomen doubled up under the thorax and head. They will never see daylight, for their role is just to fertilise female wasps and assist them to escape from the fruit. By this stage the fig has swollen and started to soften into a ripening fruit, and this softening makes it easier for the males to make escape tunnels for the females to reach the outer skin.
As the males tunnel, the females mill around in the centre of the fig, where they become dusted with pollen from the freshly opened male flowers. Unlike most wasps, which have hairy bodies for transporting pollen, fig wasps are almost hairless. Even if they were hirsute, pollen would be wiped from their bodies either as they burrowed through the sticky ripe flesh while escaping from their natal fig or as they squeezed through the narrow entrance passage of a developing syconium to reach its flowers.
When the wasp is wriggling through a tight space, the forelegs are folded back into its sculpted body grooves, and in this position they neatly cover the pockets and pouch to prevent pollen being lost. A fringe of bristles which serve as grooming combs along the edges of the second joints of the forelegs visible in the scanning electron micrographs and fine hairy brushes along the distal joints indicate how the wasps gather loose pollen and pack it into their storage pouches prior to leaving their natal fig for their few days of adult life.
Small holes visible in the purple skin of ripe fruit show that the females have departed. The natural southern limit of the hardiest species extends to about the 38th parallel, the same latitudinal line below which such trees as kauri, mangroves and taraire are seldom found.
A few of the hardier species have been introduced to this country as ornamental specimen trees in parks, gardens and public reserves, but without their appropriate pollinating wasps they cannot set viable seed and can be propagated here only from cuttings.
In the banyan itself, Fiats betighaknsis, these roots form veritable columns, and the tree grows like a huge pergola. Indian merchants used to carry out their business in the shade of these trees, and the word banyan actually derives from the Sanskrit for merchant.
It was while meditating in the shade of a bo that the Buddha achieved enlightenment. When any Ficus—indeed, any mulberry—is broken or cut, white sticky sap oozes out, which dries to form a rubbery protective skin over the wound. One east Asian species, aptly named Ficus elastica, became the original Indian rubber tree, from which the sap or latex was tapped for industrial processing.
It was once common to find small pot-bound specimens of the glossy oval-leafed India rubber tree in many homes and offices. Fashion has seen this species displaced by tub specimens of the larger-leafed fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, and by Ficus benjamina, which has small wavy-edged leaves. The latter has become popular in the foyers of office buildings and the atria of shopping malls.
In a small number of public and private gardens around Auckland can be found arresting specimens of a deciduous fig, Ficus auriculata, which has leaves the size of dinner plates and doughnut-sized figs sprouting directly from the trunk and main branches below.
To anchor its stems securely to these hard surfaces the plant uses sticky secretions of sap exuded from the flattened tips of short specialised roots which spring from the stems. After a female fig wasp flies over from the fig plant she emerged from, she must travel to the center of the syconium to lay her eggs.
You'll Never Be Able To Unlearn What Figs Are | HuffPost Life
To get there, she climbs down through a narrow passage called the ostiole. The passage is so cramped that the tiny fig wasp loses her wings and antenna during her claustrophobic trek. Once inside, there's no getting back out and flying to another plant -- but is she in the right place? This content is not compatible on this device.
Fig plants boast two kinds of figs: If a female wasp enters a caprifig, she'll find male flower parts that are perfectly shaped to hold the eggs she'll eventually lay. The study was published in the journal Acta Oecologica as part of a special volume compiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original discovery of the fig-wasp mutualism. This is why fig-wasp mutualism is so interesting.
Figs and Fig Wasps – awkward botany
The two species coexist and mutually adapt to survive. This mutualism is not confined to the interaction between the species that produces edible figs Ficus carica, the common fig and its specific pollinators, fig wasps of the species Blastophaga psenes.
The genus Ficus comprises more than species, and for each, there is a species of pollinating agaonid wasp. The mutualism is ancient, Palmieri explained. The oldest fossils of fig wasps date from 34 million years ago.
They closely resembled the species alive today, indicating that the symbiotic relationship evolved early and has not changed fundamentally since then. Molecular evidence shows that the relationship existed 65 million years ago, suggesting that it might be even older, perhaps going back to the age of dinosaurs. The fig-wasp lifecycle begins when the female wasp enters the fig.
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The flowers open inside it, so they need a special pollination process. They cannot rely on wind or bees to carry their pollen. Inside the fig, there are female and male flowers that develop at different times. The A phase occurs when the female flowers are not yet mature.
They soon mature and are ready to be fertilized. They become receptive to the wasps and release a scent made up of a huge amount of volatile compounds, triggering the B phase.
Are figs really full of baby wasps?
Each fig receptacle is not entirely closed but has a small hole called an ostiole, through which the female wasp penetrates its interior. As it does so, it loses its wings and its antennae are broken, so that it cannot get out again.
It lays its eggs and dies. Synchronized actions Once inside the fig, the female wasp lays eggs in many of the flowers but not all. At the same time, it fertilizes the flowers with pollen stored in a pouch on the underside of its thorax.
The flowers on which the eggs are laid now undergo a transformation to become hardened structures call galls. Now begins the C phase, which lasts two to three months.
The flowers that receive pollen but no eggs develop into seeds. Flowers that receive eggs and harden into galls become nurseries with food and shelter for wasp larvae. The D phase occurs at the end of larval incubation. This is also when the male flowers start to mature, opening up to expose pollen containers known as anthers.