the short life span of the adult pollinating fig wasps and the lack of
synchrony of fig production, how then is the relationship maintained?
Usually on emergence the female wasps have to leave the tree they bred on,
because the figs in a particular crop are normally all at the same stage
of development. Some Ficus species, however, have figs at different stages of
development within the same crop and in these cases the female wasp has
only to fly a short distance to locate a receptive fig. The cycling of the
mutualism can, therefore, continue on the same tree. More commonly the
cycling phenomenon relies on the presence of a suitably sized population
of trees of a particular species in a given area, so that somewhere within
the population there will be a tree with figs that are receptive for
pollination. The lack of synchrony in fig crop production between trees is
an essential trait to ensure this. If all the trees in a population
produced figs at the same time, the fig wasp population would die out.
Local extinctions of wasps do occur, when they are not able to locate a
tree with figs in the receptive phase, and there will also be abortions of
fig crops that pollinators have not managed to locate. Nevertheless, in
the larger picture this is a very successful interaction, which is borne
out by the high diversity of both fig trees and fig wasps.