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Nature's Swiss Army Knives: Ovipositor Structure Mirrors Ecology in a Multitrophic Fig Wasp Community

Ghara, Mahua and Kundanati, Lakshminath and Borges, Renee M (2011) Nature's Swiss Army Knives: Ovipositor Structure Mirrors Ecology in a Multitrophic Fig Wasp Community. In: PLos One, 6 (8).

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Abstract

Background: Resource partitioning is facilitated by adaptations along niche dimensions that range from morphology to behaviour. The exploitation of hidden resources may require specially adapted morphological or sensory tools for resource location and utilisation. Differences in tool diversity and complexity can determine not only how many species can utilize these hidden resources but also how they do so. Methodology and Principal Findings: The sclerotisation, gross morphology and ultrastructure of the ovipositors of a seven-member community of parasitic wasps comprising of gallers and parasitoids developing within the globular syconia (closed inflorescences) of Ficus racemosa (Moraceae) was investigated. These wasps also differ in their parasitism mode (external versus internal oviposition) and their timing of oviposition into the expanding syconium during its development. The number and diversity of sensilla, as well as ovipositor teeth, increased from internally ovipositing to externally ovipositing species and from gallers to parasitoids. The extent of sclerotisation of the ovipositor tip matched the force required to penetrate the syconium at the time of oviposition of each species. The internally ovipositing pollinator had only one type of sensillum and a single notch on the ovipositor tip. Externally ovipositing species had multiple sensilla types and teeth on their ovipositors. Chemosensilla were most concentrated at ovipositor tips while mechanoreceptors were more widely distributed, facilitating the precise location of hidden hosts in these wasps which lack larval host-seeking behaviour. Ovipositor traits of one parasitoid differed from those of its syntopic galler congeners and clustered with those of parasitoids within a different wasp subfamily. Thus ovipositor tools can show lability based on adaptive necessity, and are not constrained by phylogeny. Conclusions/Significance: Ovipositor structure mirrored the increasingly complex trophic ecology and requirements for host accessibility in this parasite community. Ovipositor structure could be a useful surrogate for predicting the biology of parasites in other communities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Public Library of Science.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Mechanical Sciences > Mechanical Engineering
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2011 11:03
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2011 11:03
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/40773

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