The unusual floral phenology of most monoecious figs, related to their highly specialized pollination mutualism with agaonid wasps, combines pronounced dichogamy at the level of inflorescences and individuals with population-level asynchrony in flowering. This floral phenology ensures that outcrossing strongly predominates. Fig populations may thus be expected to possess deleterious recessive alleles that lead to inbreeding depression when selfing does occur. However, whether monoecious figs are self-compatible and whether selfing results in inbreeding depression have never been investigated. Using wasps as "pollination tools" and exploiting infrequent overlap in male and female phases on the same tree, we conducted controlled selfed and outcrossed pollination experiments in Ficus aurea. Our results show that this species is totally self-compatible. No negative effects of selfing could be demonstrated on syconium retention, number of vacant ovaries, seed set, or seed germination. However, wasp production had a tendency to be higher after self-pollination. While it is possible that inbreeding depression is expressed at later developmental stages, its absence at the early stages we examined is nonetheless surprising for a plant expected to be highly outcrossed. It is likely that selection pressures other than avoidance of inbreeding are responsible for the evolution and maintenance of the unusual floral phenology of figs.
- Inbreeding depression
- Seasonal environment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science