First record of an apparently rare fig wasp feeding strategy: obligate seed predation



1. Fig trees require host-specific agaonid fig wasps for pollination, but their figs also support numerous non-pollinating fig wasps (NPFW) that gall fig tissues or develop as parasitoids.

2. Ficus microcarpa L. is widely naturalised outside its native range and the most invasive fig tree species. Seed predators are widely used for the biological control of invasive plants, but no obligate seed predatory (as opposed to ovule or fig wall galling) NPFW have been recorded previously from any fig trees.

3. Philotrypesis NPFW are usually regarded as parasitoids or ‘inquilines’ (parasitoids that also eat plant material) of pollinator fig wasps, but the present study provides evidence that Philotrypesis taiwanensis, a NPFW associated with F. microcarpa, is an obligate seed predator: (i) adults emerge from seeds of typical appearance, with a surrounding elaiosome; (ii) it shows no preference for figs occupied by fig wasp species, other than the pollinator; (iii) it only develops in figs that contain pollinated ovules, avoiding figs occupied by an agaonid that fails to pollinate; (iv) larvae are distributed in layers where seeds are concentrated and (v) it has a negative impact on seed but not pollinator offspring numbers.

4. Philotrypesis is a large genus, and further species are likely to be seed predators.