Reconstruction of fig wasp mating structure: How many mothers share a fig?

Monika Zavodna, Shannon M. Knapp, Stephen G. Compton, Paul Arens, Ben Vosman, Peter J. Van Dijk, Philip M. Gilmartin, Jos M. M. Van Damme

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19 Citations (Scopus)


1. Fig wasps (Hymenoptera: Agaonidae) represent an important model system for studies of sex ratio evolution, mainly because they may adjust their sex ratios in response to the numbers of ovipositing females (foundresses) that enter a fig and their clutch size. 2. Until recently, it was assumed that all foundresses fail to re-emerge from the figs that they have entered to oviposit, but there is increasing evidence that such re-emergence may be routine. The common practice of counting the number of dead foundresses present in a fig in order to deduce the number of foundresses is therefore questionable in species where failure to re-emerge has not been confirmed. 3. In this study, the alternative approach of microsatellite markers was used to reconstruct the within-fig breeding structure of a pollinating fig wasp by genetic analysis of the offspring. Broods of Liporrhopalum tentacularis, a species where foundresses regularly re-emerge from figs, were collected from figs of Ficus montana in their natural habitat in Indonesia as well as from an experimental glasshouse population in Leeds (U.K.). 4. The estimated foundress densities in the glasshouse population were similar to those in the field and ranged from one to six foundresses per brood. 5. Nearly 40% of all broods were produced by a single foundress, indicating that mating in these broods occurs exclusively between full siblings. High levels of inbreeding are therefore common in this species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-491
Number of pages7
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2007


  • Aganidae
  • breeding structure
  • Ficus
  • foundress
  • Hymenoptera
  • inbreeding
  • Liporrhopalum tentacularis
  • microsatellites

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