Friday, May 7, 2010

Ant predation on fig wasps

Today I accompanied CJ and KY to collect some figs for a study. Coming across another new fig species for me, Ficus benghalensis, we took a closer look at its bright orange figs.

There were lots of ants but I initially took little notice of them. But as more and more ants crawled around the fig, it dawned to me that the ants were emerging from the ostiole of the fig. CK said that they are probably predatory ants that feed on the fig wasps.

And indeed, I found one ant carrying a winged fig wasp (centre of the picture), a female, since the male fig wasps do not have wings. I also remembered reading from somewhere that male fig wasps, besides chewing a tunnel out of the fig, also act as sacrificial lambs to ants by emerging out first so as to protect their mates. Apparently it didn’t really work in this case since the opening of the figs are so big that the ants can freely walk in and out of them.

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