Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Aggression prevents the better part of valor ... in fig wasps

Date:
December 1, 2011
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Researchers have confirmed a unique behavior within the male population of tiny fig wasps that pollinate fig trees -- they team up to help pregnant females, regardless of whether they have mated themselves.

Researchers have confirmed a unique behaviour within the male population of tiny fig wasps that pollinate fig trees – they team up to help pregnant females, even if they have not mated themselves.
Credit: Simon van Noort

Researchers have confirmed a unique behaviour within the male population of tiny fig wasps that pollinate fig trees -- they team up to help pregnant females, even if they have not mated themselves.

Published online in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, the study confirms that placid male pollinator fig wasps work together to chew an escape tunnel for their females, before crawling back into the fig to die -- the non-pollinating variety are too busy fighting each other to help.

"Male insects can cooperate to attract the attention of females or to ensure that they are successful in mating, but I don't know of any other male insects which exhibit post-mating teamwork like this," says Dr Steve Compton from the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

Fig trees are vital for rainforest ecosystems. Producing fruit all year, more birds and animals feed on them than on any other plant in the rainforest. There are more than 850 types of fig tree, each pollinated by a single uniquely adapted type of fig wasp.

The research team examined some 60,000 individual fig flowers in the laboratory, each containing either pollinating fig wasps or parasitic fig wasps. All figs contained many females but alongside these, some contained a single male and others contained several males.

The hatched young of both types mate with each other before the females attempt to escape, leaving the males to die inside the fig. "Neither type of fig wasp female is strong enough to make their own way out, so they need help from the males to do this," says Dr Compton.

Escape rates for pollinator wasps were consistently high and increased when more males were present. When only one parasitic fig wasp was present, it was just as successful as the pollinators in chewing an escape route after mating, but when several males were present, the success rates plummeted.

The study also suggests that the ability of males to cooperate is hampered by innate aggression. Of the two groups of fig wasps -- those that pollinate fig trees and non-pollinators, which are parasites of the tree -- only the parasitic wasps fight more for the right to mate with females, and this group were far less able to work together.

"It would seem that male parasitic fig wasps are unable to switch off the hard-wired aggression needed to successfully mate to cooperate with each other, even when their genetic investment is at stake," says Dr Compton. "Pollinators' teamwork may be prompted because of the likelihood of genetic connection to the mated females, but the parasitic fig wasps were in the same situation."

Dr Compton believes the successful collaboration between the pollinating male fig wasps studied is likely to be normal for all pollinator fig wasps. He hopes to study a highly aggressive species of pollinators, where males fight intensely, often to death. "This will shed light on whether the cooperation is present in all pollinators, or if aggressive behaviour is too difficult to switch off after mating," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nazia Suleman, Shazia Raja, and Stephen G. Compton. Only pollinator fig wasps have males that collaborate to release their females from figs of an Asian fig tree. Biol. Lett., November 30, 2011 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1016

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Aggression prevents the better part of valor ... in fig wasps." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111201105355.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2011, December 1). Aggression prevents the better part of valor ... in fig wasps. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111201105355.htm
University of Leeds. "Aggression prevents the better part of valor ... in fig wasps." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111201105355.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins