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Variation in inflorescence size in a dioecious fig tree and its consequences for the plant and its pollinator fig wasp

, : Variation in inflorescence size in a dioecious fig tree and its consequences for the plant and its pollinator fig wasp. Plant Systematics and Evolution 299(5): 927-934

The host-specific relationship between fig trees (Ficus) and their pollinator wasps (Agaonidae) is a classic case of obligate mutualism. Pollinators reproduce within highly specialised inflorescences (figs) of fig trees that depend on the pollinator offspring for the dispersal of their pollen. About half of all fig trees are functionally dioecious, with separate male and female plants responsible for separate sexual functions. Pollen and the fig wasps that disperse it are produced within male figs, whereas female figs produce only seeds. Figs vary greatly in size between different species, with female flower numbers varying from tens to many thousands. Within species, the number of female flowers present in each fig is potentially a major determinant of the numbers of pollinator offspring and seeds produced. We recorded variation in female flower numbers within male and female figs of the dioecious Ficus montana growing under controlled conditions, and assessed the sources and consequences of inflorescence size variation for the reproductive success of the plants and their pollinator (Kradibia tentacularis). Female flower numbers varied greatly within and between plants, as did the reproductive success of the plants, and their pollinators. The numbers of pollinator offspring in male figs and seeds in female figs were positively correlated with female flower numbers, but the numbers of male flowers and a parasitoid of the pollinator were not. The significant variation in flower number among figs produced by different individuals growing under uniform conditions indicates that there is a genetic influence on inflorescence size and that this character may be subject to selection.


DOI: 10.1007/s00606-013-0773-2

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