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Can fine-scale post-pollination variation of fig volatile compounds explain some steps of the temporal succession of fig wasps associated with Ficus racemosa?

Proffit, Magali, Bessière, Jean-Marie, Schatz, Bertrand, Hossaert-McKey, Martine
Acta oecologica 2018 v.90 pp. 81-90
Agaonidae, Ficus racemosa, alpha-pinene, figs, flowers, limonene, monitoring, odors, pollinating insects, pollination, reproductive success, trees, volatile organic compounds, wasps
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by flowers play an essential role in mediating the attraction of pollinators. However, they also attract other species exploiting resources associated with flowers. For instance, VOCs emitted by figs play a major role in encounters between Ficus spp., their mutualistic pollinating wasps, and all the members of the community of non-pollinating fig wasps (NPFWs) that exploit the mutualistic interaction. Because pollinators might be in limited supply for a tree bearing many inflorescences, the plant might maximize its individual reproductive success by reducing the attractiveness of inflorescences once they are pollinated, so that pollinators orient only towards the tree's unpollinated figs. Changes in VOCs emission that bring this about could represent an important cue for NPFWs that exploit particular stages of fig development. In this study, by monitoring precisely the presence of fig-associated wasps on figs of F. racemosa, a common widespread fig species, we demonstrated that 4–5 days and 15 days following pollination represent two critical transitional steps in the succession of different wasp species. Then, focusing on the first one of these transitional steps, by investigating the composition of fig VOCs at receptivity and from 1 to 5 days following pollination, we detected progressive quantitative and qualitative variation of floral scent following pollination. These changes are significant at 5 days following pollination. The qualitative changes are mainly due to an increase in the relative proportions of two monoterpenes (α-pinene and limonene). These variations of the floral VOCs following pollination could explain why pollinating wasps stop visiting figs very shortly after the first pollinators enter receptive figs. They also possibly explain the succession of non-pollinating wasps on the figs following pollination.