ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION: Not a One-to-One Mapping

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Science  16 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5622, pp. 1057a
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5622.1057a

One of the best examples of mutualism—evolved interdependence between two species of organism—is the relationship between figs and their pollinating wasps. Female wasps pollinate some of the fig's flowers, which are contained within a globular inflorescence (synconium), while laying eggs in others; the developing larvae feed on the floral tissues while seeds develop from the pollinated flowers; newly developed females then fly off to a new synconium, bearing pollen from their birthplace.

Hitherto, most of the 700-plus species of fig have been thought to partner with their own species of wasp, in a remarkably stable pattern of coevolution between animal and plant spanning some 90 million years. Molbo et al. describe genetic data from fig wasps collected in Panama and suggest that there may be at least two previously undetected cryptic species of wasp in many fig species. Hence, rather than representing the classical paradigm of mutualistic coevolution in which a pair of taxa evolve in parallel, the fig-wasp relationship may be more evolutionarily labile.—AMS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100, 5867 (2003).

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