On a cold
winter spring day like today, I crave something warm and bready, like figgy pudding. But really, I’ve never had figgy pudding. These fig biscotti are much more appetizing. Unfortunately for me, figs will not be in season until late summer. But that doesn’t stop me from talking/writing/reading/dreaming about them now.
Gleaned from a variety of sources:
“If you study tropical frugivores, or carnivores, directly or indirectly you will end up studying figs.”
“If you study figs, you will end up studying wasps.”
“If you study wasps, you will end up studying their figs.”
“If you study figs, you will end up studying the animals that eat them.”
Nice, eh? With so many scientists studying figs, it seems inevitable that at one point or another, I would encounter them. So here I go.
With approximately 800 species world wide, all fig trees are in the genus Ficus in the plant family Moraceae. Figs engage in nursery pollination, meaning the fruit are brood sites for pollinators. The figs provide a nursery service to the wasps. Meanwhile, the wasps pollinate the fig flowers which develop into fruit. There is benefit to fig host and wasp pollinator, but there is deception as well. Female wasps can only lay eggs in the male functioning structures, which are almost indistinguishable from female functioning structures. Only the female structures are edible fruit. Eventually, when the fruit has ripened, frugivores (bats, primates, birds) chomp up the figs and pass the seeds somewhere else. Fig tree life begins again, and a new generation of wasps are out to find them.
I’ve in no way done justice to the complexity of the system. Suffice it to say that figs have enabled scientists to answer ecologically and evolutionarily important questions. But many others have arisen, and many remain unanswered.