Host-specificity and coevolution among pollinating and nonpollinating New World fig wasps


Dr Wendy A. Marussich, Fax: 520-621-9190; E-mail:


Figs (Ficus spp., Moraceae) and their pollinating wasps (Hymenoptera, Agaonidae, Chalcidoidea) constitute a classic example of an obligate plant-pollinator mutualism, and have become an ideal system for addressing questions on coevolution, speciation, and the maintenance of mutualisms. In addition to pollinating wasps, figs host several types of nonpollinating, parasitic wasps from a diverse array of Chalcid subfamilies with varied natural histories and ecological strategies (e.g. competitors, gallers, and parasitoids). Although a few recent studies have addressed the question of codivergence between specific genera of pollinating and nonpollinating fig wasps, no study has addressed the history of divergence of a fig wasp community comprised of multiple genera of wasps associated with a large number of sympatric fig hosts. Here, we conduct phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences (COI) using 411 individuals from 69 pollinating and nonpollinating fig wasp species to assess relationships within and between five genera of fig wasps (Pegoscapus, Idarnes, Heterandrium, Aepocerus, Physothorax) associated with 17 species of New World Urostigma figs from section Americana. We show that host-switching and multiple wasp species per host are ubiquitous across Neotropical nonpollinating wasp genera. In spite of these findings, cophylogenetic analyses (treemap 1.0, treemap 2.02β, and parafit) reveal evidence of codivergence among fig wasps from different ecological guilds. Our findings further challenge the classical notion of strict-sense coevolution between figs and their associated wasps, and mirror conclusions from detailed molecular studies of other mutualisms that have revealed common patterns of diffuse coevolution and asymmetric specialization among the participants.