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Host–parasitoid development and survival strategies in a non-pollinating fig wasp community
- Yadav, Pratibha, Borges, Renee M.
- Acta oecologica 2018 v.90 pp. 60-68
- Agaonidae, Ficus racemosa, adults, coevolution, eclosion, figs, fruits, host plants, host specificity, parasitoids, phenology, predation, risk, wasps
- In a tritrophic system, parasitoid development and galler host survival strategies have rarely been investigated simultaneously, an approach crucial for a complete understanding of the complexity of host–parasitoid interactions. Strategies in parasitoids to maximize host exploitation and in gallers to reduce predation risk can greatly affect the structure of tritrophic communities. In this study, the developmental strategies of galler hosts and their associated parasitoids in the tritrophic fig–fig wasp system are experimentally investigated for the first time. In this highly co-evolved system, wasp development is intrinsically tied with the phenology of the wasp brood sites that are restricted to the enclosed urn-shaped fig inflorescence called the syconium which can be regarded as a microcosm. Wasp exclusion experiments to determine host specificity, gall dissections and developmental assays were conducted with non-pollinating fig wasps in Ficus racemosa. Our results provide evidence for exceptions to the widely accepted koinobiont–idiobiont parasitoid dichotomy. This is also the first time fig wasps were raised ex situ from non-feeding stages onwards, a technique that enabled us to monitor their development from their pre-pupal to adult stages and record their development time more accurately. Based on variation in development time and host specificity, the possibility of a cryptic parasitoid species is raised. The frequency of different wasp species eclosing from the microcosms of individual syconia is explained using host–parasitoid associations and interactions under the modulating effect of host plant phenology.