Asymmetric interaction and indeterminate fitness correlation between cooperative partners in the fig-fig wasp mutualism

Rui Wu Wang*, Bao Fa Sun, Qi Zheng, Lei Shi, Lixing ZHU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical observations have shown that cooperative partners can compete for common resources, but what factors determine whether partners cooperate or compete remain unclear. Using the reciprocal fig-fig wasp mutualism, we show that nonlinear amplification of interference competition between fig wasps - which limits the fig wasps' ability to use a common resource (i.e. female flowers) - keeps the common resource unsaturated, making cooperation locally stable. When interference competition was manually prevented, the fitness correlation between figs and fig wasps went from positive to negative. This indicates that genetic relatedness or reciprocal exchange between cooperative players, which could create spatial heterogeneity or self-restraint, was not sufficient to maintain stable cooperation. Moreover, our analysis of field-collected data shows that the fitness correlation between cooperative partners varies stochastically, and that the mainly positive fitness correlation observed during the warm season shifts to a negative correlation during the cold season owing to an increase in the initial oviposition efficiency of each fig wasp. This implies that the discriminative sanction of less-cooperative wasps (i.e. by decreasing the egg deposition efficiency per fig wasp) but reward to cooperative wasps by fig, a control of the initial value, will facilitate a stable mutualism. Our finding that asymmetric interaction leading to an indeterminate fitness interaction between symbiont (i.e. cooperative actors) and host (i.e. recipient) has the potential to explain why conflict has been empirically observed in both well-documented intraspecific and interspecific cooperation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1487-1496
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number63
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering

User-Defined Keywords

  • Asymmetric cooperation
  • Chaotic oscillation
  • Fig-fig wasp
  • Interference competition
  • Mutualism
  • Tragedy of the commons


Dive into the research topics of 'Asymmetric interaction and indeterminate fitness correlation between cooperative partners in the fig-fig wasp mutualism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this