Molecular phylogenies of fig wasps: Partial cocladogenesis of pollinators and parasites

Carlos Lopez-Vaamonde, Jean Yves Rasplus, George D. Weiblen, James M. Cook

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Figs (Ficus spp., Moraceae) and their pollinating wasps form an obligate mutualism, which has long been considered a classic case of coevolution and cospeciation. Figs are also exploited by several clades of nonpollinating wasps, which are parasites of the mutualism and whose patterns of speciation have received little attention. We used data from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA regions to estimate the phylogenies of 20 species of Pleistodontes pollinating wasps and 16 species of Sycoscapter nonpollinating wasps associated with Ficus species in the section Malvanthera. We compare the phylogenies of 15 matched Pleistodontes/Sycoscapter species pairs and show that the level of cospeciation is significantly greater than that expected by chance. Our estimates of the maximum level of cospeciation (50 to 64% of nodes) are very similar to those obtained in other recent studies of coevolved parasitic and mutualistic associations. However, we also show that there is not perfect congruence of pollinator and parasite phylogenies (for any substantial clade) and argue that host plant switching is likely to be less constrained for Sycoscapter parasites than for Pleistodontes pollinators. There is perfect correspondence between two terminal clades of two sister species in the respective phylogenies, and rates of molecular evolution in these pairs are similar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dale Dixon, Brus Isua, John Lattke, and John Zammit for providing wasp specimens, and Elisabeth Herniou, Sally Power, Hugh Spencer, Sampson Laup, and Luc Leblanc for fieldwork assistance. Earlier manuscripts were much improved by Robert Belshaw, Jason Taylor, Salvador Carranza, Kevin Johnson, Carole Kerdelhue, Elisabeth Herniou, and two anonymous reviewers. We are grateful to Frank Van Veen for providing ITS2 primer sequences. Special thanks must go to Andrew Rambaut, Konrad Dolphin, David Posada, and Joseph Thorley for advice on the use of SHTest, ILD test, Modeltest, and Radcon, respectively, and to Anthony Cognato for comments on the cyt b saturation analysis. Financial support was provided by a British Council/Fundacion Barrie de la Maza postgraduate grant to C.L.V and a NERC Advanced Fellowship to J.M.C. Fieldwork was partly funded by a British Ecological Society Small Project Grant (J.M.C) and a European Science Foundation (Canopy Tropical Research) travel grant (C.L.V).


  • 28S
  • Agaonidae
  • Coevolution
  • Cospeciation
  • Cytochrome b
  • Ficus
  • Fig wasps
  • ITS2
  • Malvanthera
  • Pleistodontes
  • Sycoscapter


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