In exchange for the pollination service provided by the wasp, the fig fruit provides room and board for the wasp's developing young. However, wasps do not always pollinate the fig. Fig trees "punish" these "cheaters" by dropping unpollinated fruit, killing the wasp's offspring inside, report researchers working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, show that sanctions against cheaters may be critical to maintain the relationship.
"Relationships require give and take. We want to know what forces maintain this 80-million-year-old arrangement between figs and their wasp pollinators." said lead author, Charlotte Jandér, graduate student in Cornell University's Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, who conducted the study as a Smithsonian pre-doctoral fellow. "What prevents the wasps from reaping the benefits of the relationship without paying the costs?"
Some wasp species passively carry pollen that sticks to their bodies. Others actively collect pollen in special pouches. Jandér evaluated the ability of six different fig tree-fig wasp species pairs to regulate cheating. She introduced either a single pollen-free wasp, or a wasp carrying pollen, into a mesh bag containing an unpollinated fig. The wasps entered the figs to lay their eggs. Jandér found that trees often dropped unpollinated figs before young wasps could mature.
"This is really about the all-too-human theme of crime and punishment. We found that in actively pollinated fig species—when wasps expend time and energy to collect and deposit pollen-- wasps that did not provide the basic service of pollination were sanctioned. However, in passively pollinated species—when the wasps do not need to make an effort to pollinate--sanctions were absent," said Allen Herre, STRI staff scientist. "Although we still need to clearly understand the costs associated with applying sanctions, it seems like sanctions were only present where needed."
"Sanctions seem to be a necessary force in keeping this, and other, mutually-beneficial relationships on track when being part of a mutualism is costly," said Jandér. "In our study, we saw less cheating when sanctions were stronger. Similar results have been found among human societies and in social insects. It is very appealing to think that the same general principles could help maintain cooperation both within and among species."
STRI, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems.
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy