Nanoscribe microscope

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Did You Know…

…that Fig Wasps and Fig Trees Have Been Inseparable For 34 Million Years?


Each of the 800 different species of fig wasps use their stingers to lay their eggs in the blossoms of specific species of fig, thereby pollinating it. The larva then develop in the tiny inflorescence, receiving their nutrients from the growing fruit.

A new discovery of a more than 34-million-year-old fig wasp directly in a fig flower proves that the close symbiotic relationship between the tree and the insect has not changed since the Oligocene period.

Researchers from the Natural History Museum of London recently took a closer look at its fossil of a fig wasp erroneously identified as an ant in 1920. Under an electron microscope that magnified the 1.5-millimeter-long fig wasp by 1500x, the scientists discovered that this ancient insect was practically identical to its modern-day descendant. The images show that all of the anatomical specializations of the wasp, such as its method of penetrating the blossom as well as its pollen sacks, already existed back then.

This leads to the conclusion that the anatomy of the fig blossoms has not changed either, nor would beneficial change be possible. A unilateral mutation in such a highly specialized symbiosis would inevitably terminate the reciprocal relationship. According to British biologist Dr. Steve Compton, the symbiosis between wasp and tree could very well be the oldest case of biological reciprocity known to science.



23. August 2011