EDUCATION: Home Sweet Home

Science  27 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5688, pp. 1219
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5688.1219d

The wasp and the fig tree isn't one of Aesop's lesser-known fables, it's the true story of an interkingdom partnership essential for producing the tasty fruit. Discover the details of this intricate, reciprocally beneficial relationship—what ecologists call a mutualism—at this site from the Iziko Museums in Cape Town, South Africa. The tree's flowers are tucked inside the fig, whose alluring scents draw female wasps. The minute insects wriggle into the fruit's interior, where they lay their eggs and pollinate the flowers. Newly hatched wasps munch on the fig then fly away, carrying pollen to another tree. The site features photos and artwork illustrating fig and bug adaptations. Cheaters can prosper in this situation—this species of Otitesella injects its eggs into the fig without spreading pollen.

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