Male Ficus fistulosa fig tree growing at the BORA rhino orchard at Tabin in Sabah. The Tabin rhinos are happy to eat female Ficus fistulosa fig fruit but prefer not to eat male Ficus fistulosa fig fruits. The rhino keepers name for this fig is Nangka air bukit. 

Information on the BORA Rhino Orchard

Photos by Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin 

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NOTE: (1) The largest, palest yellow figs have holes in the ostioles indicating that the fig wasps have already left and these figs will fall to the ground and rot (2) All stages and sizes of figs are present indicating that these male figs ripen in sequence  (steady state) providing a continuous supply of fig wasps  to pollinate the local community of Ficus fistulosa fig trees. Note the black ant sitting on top of the yellow fig upper left. Ants  both protect male figs from attacks by NPFW (non pollinating fig wasps) and harvest a small proportion of beneficial pollinating fig wasps for their own consumption. Thus the relationship is both mutualistic and antagonistic.


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The empty “female” gall flowers indicate that the fig wasps have hatched. Normally male fig wasps hatch first  and then mate with the emerging female wasps inside the fig. Males then cut their way through the bracts on the ostiole so that the now pregnant female wasps can easily exit the fig. The male fig wasps then congregate on the outside surface of the fig to act as decoys for predatory ants. i.e. they sacrifice themselves so that the female fig wasps will not get attacked.  As they  are exiting the fig the female wasps collect pollen from the male flowers (anthers and stamens)  around the ostiole. Once they exit the fig the pregnant female wasps use scent to detect the location of nearby receptive figs of the same species in which they can lay their eggs.