Critical review of host specificity and its coevolutionary implications in the fig/fig-wasp mutualism
Figs (Ficus spp., Moraceae) and their pollinating wasps (Agaonidae, Chalcidoidea) constitute perhaps the most tightly integrated pollination mutualism that is known. Figs are characterized by extraordinarily high global and local species diversity. It has been proposed that the diversification of this mutualism has occurred through strict-sense coadaptation and cospeciation between pairs of fig and wasp species that are associated in highly specific one-to-one relationships. However, existing studies cast doubt on the generality of this proposition. Here, we review our current knowledge of the evolutionary history of the fig/fig-wasp mutualism. We critically examine the idea that codivergence between figs and their pollinators has been dominated by strict-sense cospeciation. We present phylogenetic and population genetic data from neotropical fig and fig wasp species that suggest that a more accurate model for diversification in this mutualism is that of groups of genetically well defined wasp species coevolving with genetically less well defined (frequently hybridizing) groups of figs. Last, we use our results to assess previously proposed hypotheses on models of speciation in this mutualism.