Host-Plant Species Conservatism and Ecology of a Parasitoid Fig Wasp Genus (Chalcidoidea; Sycoryctinae; Arachonia)
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Parasitoid diversity in terrestrial ecosystems is enormous. However, ecological processes underpinning their evolutionary diversification in association with other trophic groups are still unclear. Specialisation and interdependencies among chalcid wasps that reproduce on Ficus presents an opportunity to investigate the ecology of a multi-trophic system that includes parasitoids. Here we estimate the host-plant species specificity of a parasitoid fig wasp genus that attacks the galls of nonpollinating pteromalid and pollinating agaonid fig wasps. We discuss the interactions between parasitoids and the Ficus species present in a forest patch of Uganda in context with populations in Southern Africa. Haplotype networks are inferred to examine intraspecific mitochondrial DNA divergences and phylogenetic approaches used to infer putative species relationships. Taxonomic appraisal and putative species delimitation by molecular and morphological techniques are compared. Results demonstrate that a parasitoid fig wasp population is able to reproduce on at least four Ficus species present in a patch. This suggests that parasitoid fig wasps have relatively broad host-Ficus species ranges compared to fig wasps that oviposit internally. Parasitoid fig wasps did not recruit on all available host plants present in the forest census area and suggests an important ecological consequence in mitigating fitness trade-offs between pollinator and Ficus reproduction. The extent to which parasitoid fig wasps exert influence on the pollination mutualism must consider the fitness consequences imposed by the ability to interact with phenotypes of multiple Ficus and fig wasps species, but not equally across space and time.