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 22, 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 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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