Ability to gall: The ultimate basis of host specificity in fig wasps?
1. Fig trees (Ficus spp.) and their host-specific pollinator fig wasps (Agaonidae) are partners in an obligate mutualism. Receptive phase figs release specific volatiles to attract their pollinators, and this is generally effective in preventing pollinator species from entering figs of the wrong hosts. 2. If entry is attempted into atypical host figs, then ostiole size and shape and style length may also prevent reproduction. In spite of these barriers, there is increasing evidence that fig wasps enter atypical hosts, and that this can result in hybrid seed and fig wasp offspring. 3. This study examines the basis of pollinator specificity in two dioecious fig species from different geographical areas. Kradibia tentacularis pollinates Ficus montana in Asia. Ficus asperifolia from East Africa is closely related but is pollinated by a different species of Kradibia. 4. In glasshouses, K. tentacularis was attracted to its normal host, F1s and backcrosses, but only rarely entered figs of F. asperifolia. Foundresses were able to lay eggs in hybrids, backcrosses, and F. asperifolia, although flower occupancy was lowest in F. asperifolia figs and intermediate in hybrids. 5. The fig wasp failed to reproduce in female F. montana, male F. asperifolia, and male F1s, and most but not all backcrosses to F. montana. This was a result of the failure to initiate gall production. 6. Host specificity in this fig wasp is strongly influenced by host volatiles, but the ability to gall may be the ultimate determinant of whether it can reproduce.