Ecology of Strangler Figs: Outline

This topic submitted by Leo Sack ( cliffhanger@fuse.net) at 1:22 AM on 3/25/04.

Melissa works on her journal at the Mangrove Inn, Bocas, Panama!

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University


I am researching and plan to report on the ecological roles of strangler fig (Ficus) trees. These plants seem to be involved in some excellent examples of different types of interspecies relationships. They have a parasitic relationship to the host trees that they start life upon (and often eventually kill). They provide food and shelter to a number of animals, sometimes with no benefit to the plant (a case of commensalism), and sometimes with distinct benefits, such as seed dispersal (mutualism). They have also evolved a fascinating mutualistic, sybiotic relationship with fig wasps (Family Agaonidae), which pollinate the strangler figs. I intend to explore some of these relationships, and hopefully reveal the stranglers' means of reproduction and distribution along the way.

Outline:

I. Introduction
A. What are Strangler Figs?
B. Why are they important/interesting?
C. Define types of relationships

II. The growth process
A. Germination of seeds
- placement in branches of forest canopy
- moisture requirements
B. Transformation from epiphyte to free-standing tree
- root tendrils
- allofusion (including between different species of Ficus)
C. Damage to host trees
- strangling
- stealing resources

III. Pollination
A. Sybiosis with fig wasps
B. How did they coevolve?
C. Studies of wide range of pollination
D. Flowering Synchrony and allofusion

IV. Seed dispersal
A. Species that spread fig seeds
B. Studies of seeds dropped vs. released in excrement

V. Other interactions with the ecosystem
A. Species that the plant feeds, shelters
B. Support for epiphytes
C. Parasitic fig wasps that attack other fig wasps?

Resources:

Athreya, Vidya R. "Light or presence of host trees: Which is more important for the strangler fig?." Journal of Tropical Ecology, v. 15 issue 5, 1999, p. 589-603.

Thomson, James D.; Dent-Acousta, Sara; Escobar-Paramo, Patricia; Nason, John D. "Within-crown flowering synchrony in strangler figs, and its relationship to allofusion." Biotropica, v. 29 issue 3, 1997, p. 291-297.

Nason, J. D.; Hamrick, J. L. "Reproductive and genetic consequences of forest fragmentation: Two case studies of Neotropical canopy trees." Journal of Heredity, v. 88 issue 4, 1997, p. 264-276.

Serio-Silva, Juan Carlos; Rico-Gray, Victor. "Influence of microclimate at different canopy heights on the germination of Ficus (Urostigma) seeds dispersed by Mexican howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata mexicana)."Interciencia, v. 27 issue 4, 2002, p. 186-190.

Swagel, Eric N.; Bernhard, A. Van H.; Ellmore, George S. "Substrate water potential constraints on germination of the strangler fig Ficus aurea (Moraceae)." American Journal of Botany, v. 84 issue 5, 1997, p. 716-722.

Nason, John D.; Herre, E. Allen; Hamrick, James L. "Paternity analysis of the breeding structure of strangler fig populations: Evidence for substantial long-distance wasp dispersal." Journal of Biogeography, v. 23 issue 4, 1996, p. 501-512.

Laman, Timothy G. "The ecology of strangler fig seedling establishment." Selbyana, v. 16 issue 2, 1995, p. 223-229.

THOMSON J, D; HERRE E, A; HAMRICK J, L; STONE J L. "GENETIC MOSAICS IN STRANGLER FIG TREES IMPLICATIONS FOR TROPICAL CONSERVATION." Science (Washington D C), v. 254 issue 5035, 1991, p. 1214-1216.

PUTZ F, E; HOLBROOK N M. "STRANGLER FIG ROOTING HABITS AND NUTRIENT RELATIONS IN THE LLANOS OF VENEZUELA." American Journal of Botany, v. 76 issue 6, 1989, p. 781-788.

Kricher, John. A Neotropical Companion. Princeton University Press 1997, p. 30, 128-129.

COATES-ESTRADA, R; ESTRADA A. "FRUITING AND FRUGIVORES AT A STRANGLER FIG IN THE TROPICAL RAIN FOREST OF LOS TUXTLAS MEXICO." Journal of Tropical Ecology, v. 2 issue 4, 1986, p. 349-358.


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