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A hitchhiker's guide to a crowded syconium: how do fig nematodes find the right ride?

Krishnan, Anusha and Muralidharan, Subhashini and Sharma, Likhesh and Borges, Renee Maria (2010) A hitchhiker's guide to a crowded syconium: how do fig nematodes find the right ride? In: Functional Ecology, 24 (4). pp. 741-749.

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Official URL: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/1233215...

Abstract

P>1Organisms with low mobility, living within ephemeral environments,need to find vehicles that can disperse them reliably to new environments. The requirement for specificity in this passenger-vehicle relationship is enhanced within a tritrophic interaction when the environment of passenger and vehicle is provided by a third organism. Such relationships pose many interesting questions about specificity within a tritrophic framework. 2. Central to understanding how these tritrophic systems have evolved, is knowing how they function now. Determining the proximal cues and sensory modalities used by passengers to find vehicles and to discriminate between reliable and non-reliable vehicles is, therefore, essential to this investigation. 3. The ancient, co-evolved and highly species-specific nursery pollination mutualism between figs and fig wasps is host to species-specific plant-parasitic nematodes which use fig wasps to travel between figs. Since individual globular fig inflorescences, i.e. syconia, serve as incubators for hundreds of developing pollinating and parasitic wasps, a dispersal-stage nematode within such a chemically,complex and physically crowded environment is faced with the dilemma of choosing the right vehicle for dispersal into a new fig. Such a system therefore affords excellent opportunities to investigate mechanisms that contribute to the evolution of specificity between the passenger and the vehicle. 4. In this study of fig-wasp-nematode tritrophic interactions in Ficus racemosa within which seven wasp species can breed, we demonstrate using two-choice as well as cafeteria assays that plant-parasitic nematodes (Schistonchus racemosa) do not hitch rides randomly on available eclosing wasps within the fig syconium, but are specifically attracted, at close range, i.e. 3 mm distance, to only that vehicle which can quickly, within a few hours, reliably transfer it to another fig. This vehicle is the female pollinating wasp. Male wasps and female parasitic wasps are inappropriate vehicles since the former are wingless and die within the fig, while the latter never enter another fig. Nematodes distinguished between female pollinating wasps and other female parasitic wasps using volatiles and cuticular hydrocarbons. Nematodes could not distinguish between cuticular hydrocarbons of male and female pollinators but used other cues, such as volatiles, at close range, to find female pollinating wasps with which they have probably had a long history of chemical adaptation. 5. This study opens up new questions and hypotheses about the evolution and maintenance of specificity in fig-wasp-nematode tritrophic interactions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to John Wiley and Sons.
Keywords: cuticular hydrocarbons;host specificity; plant-animal interactions;phoresy;plant-insect interactions;tritrophic interactions;volatiles
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2010 06:38
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 06:13
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/31092

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