Title page for ETD etd-07292008-094038

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Nelson, Ronald Michael
URN etd-07292008-094038
Document Title Causes of fighting in male pollinating fig wasps
Degree MSc
Department Genetics
Advisor Name Title
Prof J M Greeff Supervisor
  • phylogenetic regression
  • proximal determinants
  • pollinating fig wasps
Date 2005-09-07
Availability unrestricted
A striking variation in the behaviour of pollinating fig wasps (Agonidae) is the occurrence of male fighting in some species while in others it is completely absent. Fighting behaviour was investigated at two levels.

Firstly, the variation in fighting behaviour between the species was used to examine factors that might cause the evolution thereof. Comparisons across species were done using phylogenetic regression. This method takes similarity due to phylogenetic constraints into account when data are compared. Kin selection theory implies that fighting is barred by the high degree of relatedness in competing males. We however find that the relatedness of the males do not have an influence on the evolution of fighting and this finding supports models suggesting that high LMC cancels benefits due to relatedness. Rather, that the only factor having a significant correlation with fighting is the release sex ratio. The release sex ratio and dispersal is also associated. Fighting and dispersal are not expected to have direct influence on each other and the association of both with the release sex ratio imply that this may be an indirect link between these two behaviours. A syndrome where fighting and dispersal is found together is in part explained by the release sex ratio. We conclude that the release sex ratio is the most likely cause of the evolution of fighting behaviour in pollinating fig wasps.

The second part of this study deals with the proximal determinants causing fighting, in the males of the species Platyscapa awekei. We show that the sex ratio which, is less female biased than non-fighting pollinator species, rapidly becomes even less female biased as soon as both sexes becomes active. Numerous fights are fought by the males in the female limited environment. The activity of the wasps is shown to be regulated by the gaseous environment, which change from a high to a low CO2 concentration with the construction of an exit hole from the fig. The males of the species P. awekei are inactive, and do not engage in mating or fighting activities, in high CO2, contrasted to males of other species, which are active in this environment. P. awekei females rapidly release once the CO2 level is lowered and mating behaviour is only observed in this environment. The number of female to male encounters of every male decrease as the operational sex ratio becomes less female biased. Male fighting in this species is therefore expected due to the high sex ratio, which is enforced by the increase thereof. We conclude that the physical environment, in this species, affects the mating environment. The resultant reduction in the number of potential mating opportunities therefore escalates fighting between the males.

University of Pretoria 2005


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