Pollinator host-switches and fig hybridization dominate fig-wasp coevolution

February 02, 2021

The genus Ficus (figs) and their agaonid pollinating fig wasps are a classic example of coevolution. It represents perhaps the most extreme and ancient (about 75 million years) obligate pollination mutualism known.

Previous studies have suggested that pollinator host-switching and hybridization existed in some fig taxa with genetic evidence based on relatively few genes. However, those cases were mainly treated as rare exceptions, and strict-sense coevolution was still treated as the dominate coevolution model for the codiversification of this "extreme" obligate pollination system with high species richness.

Together with colleagues from 11 institutions from home and abroad, researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently shown that the fig hybridization mediated by pollinator host-switching in the obligate fig-wasp pollination system is more common than previously thought. The study was published in Nature Communications.

The researchers collected complete sequences for nuclear, chloroplast, and mitochondrial genomes from 15 fig species representing all major recognized Ficus clades.

By assembling and analyzing genomes from across the Ficus clades, the researchers, employing multiple commonly used hybridization detection analyses, found that hybridization events have occurred throughout Ficus evolutionary history.

"We conducted cophylogenetic reconciliation analyses and detected significant incongruence among all nuclear, chloroplast, and mitochondrial-based phylogenies, none of which correspond with any published phylogenies of the associated pollinator wasps," said Dr. WANG Gang from XTBG.

Significantly, most hybridization events detected among the main Ficus clades exhibit associated pollinator host-switching events. Therefore, the evolutionary history of figs and wasps has likely been characterized by frequent host-switches among the pollinators.

"These pollinator host-switches and fig hybridization events are a dominant feature of fig-wasp coevolutionary history," said Prof. CHEN Jin, one of the corresponding authors of the study.

The results also offered insights into the temporal and biogeographical reconstructions of fig-wasp mutualism.

"We suggest that future studies attempting to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships or any coevolution stories between figs and their pollinators should not be constrained by the idea that species or even lineages of pollinators have strictly coradiated with the currently corresponding species or lineages of figs," said Dr. WANG Gang.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

Related Genes Articles from Brightsurf:

Are male genes from Mars, female genes from Venus?
In a new paper in the PERSPECTIVES section of the journal Science, Melissa Wilson reviews current research into patterns of sex differences in gene expression across the genome, and highlights sampling biases in the human populations included in such studies.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

How status sticks to genes
Life at the bottom of the social ladder may have long-term health effects that even upward mobility can't undo, according to new research in monkeys.

Symphony of genes
One of the most exciting discoveries in genome research was that the last common ancestor of all multicellular animals already possessed an extremely complex genome.

New genes out of nothing
One key question in evolutionary biology is how novel genes arise and develop.

Good genes
A team of scientists from NAU, Arizona State University, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts and nine other institutions worldwide to study potential cancer suppression mechanisms in cetaceans, the mammalian group that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.

How lifestyle affects our genes
In the past decade, knowledge of how lifestyle affects our genes, a research field called epigenetics, has grown exponentially.

Genes that regulate how much we dream
Sleep is known to allow animals to re-energize themselves and consolidate memories.

The genes are not to blame
Individualized dietary recommendations based on genetic information are currently a popular trend.

Timing is everything, to our genes
Salk scientists discover critical gene activity follows a biological clock, affecting diseases of the brain and body.

Read More: Genes News and Genes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.