Chemical mediation and niche partitioning in non-pollinating fig-wasp communities


Magali Proffit, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR CNRS 5175, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France. E-mail:


  • 1The parasitic chalcidoid wasps associated with the species-specific and obligatory pollination mutualisms between Ficus spp. and their agaonid wasp pollinators provide a good model to study the functional organization of communities.
  • 2However, communities of non-pollinating fig wasps (NPFWs) remain little characterized, and their functioning and evolutionary dynamics are still poorly understood.
  • 3We studied the communities of NPFWs associated with the monoecious F. racemosa and the dioecious F. hispida. Associated with these two fig species are a total of seven wasp species belonging to three genera. These species present contrasts in life history traits and in timing of oviposition. The species studied are thus broadly representative of the communities of NPFWs associated specifically with fig–pollinator mutualisms.
  • 4In our study systems, there is temporal segregation of oviposition time among members of NPFW communities.
  • 5We tested the role of volatile chemicals in the attraction of NPFWs associated with these two fig species, and tried to determine if chemical mediation can explain the organization of the communities.
  • 6We conducted odour choice tests using a Y-tube olfactometer. All the NPFWs studied were shown to use volatile chemicals produced by the fig to locate their host. Furthermore, the signals used by each species depended on the phenological stage of the fig they exploit.
  • 7Results demonstrated that the pattern of oviposition results from the utilization of volatile signals produced by figs that vary in their composition at different stages of fig development. Thus, chemical mediation allows resource partitioning in the NPFW communities associated with fig–pollinator mutualisms, and suggests hypotheses to explain coexistence in other parasite communities.