Journal of Tropical Ecology

Dispersal of fig pollinators in Asian tropical rain forests

Rhett D. Harrison a1a2c1 and Jean-Yves Rasplus a3
a1 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 2072, Balboa, Panama City, Republic of Panama
a2 Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8974, Japan
a3 Centre de Biologie et de Gestion de Populations, CBGP Campus International de Baillarguet, CS 30 016, F-34988 Montferrier-sur-Lez, France

Article author query
harrison rd   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
rasplus j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Fig pollinators (Agaonidae, Chalcioidea) lay their eggs in fig inflorescences (Ficus, Moraceae). Reproductive success for both partners is thus largely dependent on the dispersal of these tiny wasps. Some are known to cover substantial distances (> 10 km) using wind above the canopy. However, fig ecology is extremely varied, and hence one might also expect a diversity of pollinator dispersal strategies. We studied fig pollinator dispersal in Sarawak (2001 and 2004) and Peninsular Malaysia (2003). The results indicate substantial differences in dispersal ecology between the pollinators of monoecious and dioecious figs. Monoecious-fig pollinators were common, and species composition and rank abundances were similar between years despite short sampling periods. Substantial temporal and spatial variation in their production is thus smoothed out by long-distance dispersal. Some species whose hosts do not occur at our Sarawak site and are rare throughout Borneo were caught, suggesting exceptionally long-distance dispersal in these species. Conversely, few dioecious-fig pollinators were caught and species overlap between years was low. Dispersal range in many dioecious-fig pollinators may be more restricted. At a finer scale, among genera pollinating monoecious figs we found marked differences in flight behaviour (height and time-of-dispersal). We relate these findings to the ecology of their hosts, and discuss the implications for fig–fig-pollinator coevolution.

(Published Online October 20 2006)
(Accepted May 22 2006)

Key Words: Agaonidae; coevolution; Ficus; flight behaviour; mutualism; pollination.

c1 Corresponding author. Email: