As with Ficus sagittata approx. 2/3 of the 150 species of Bornean figs are dioecious which means that the fig plants and their figs are either male or female.
This means that symbiotic figs wasps are necessary to carry pollen from ripe male figs to female figs before the female figs can produce seeds.
The male figs provide brood chambers for the figs wasps known as gall flowers.
After the wasps hatch from the gall flowers male and female wasps mate (inside the fig) and the pregnant female wasps dusted in pollen (from the male flowers on anthers inside the male fig) fly off to find receptive figs of the same species.
- The female fig wasps are attracted by scent to receptive figs and cannot distinguish between male and female figs.
- The female fig wasps are carrying both fertile male pollen and fertile eggs.
- If the female wasps finds a receptive male fig first she will lay one egg inside each gall flower and then die.
- This ensures the next generation of fig wasps
- If the female wasp finds a receptive female fig first she will deposit her pollen load on the stigma of the female flowers and then die.
- This ensures that the female fig will produce seeds and ensures the continuation of the fig plant.
For description of the similar pollination process of a different species of dioecious fig see Ficus pumila male fig pollination.
Photos and information from Tawau Hills Park provided by Shavez Cheema and Chun Xing WONG of 1Stop Borneo Wildlife.
Male figs are not attractive to birds or mammals. Once the fig wasps have left the fig, the fig falls to the ground uneaten and rots thereby re-cycling any nutrients back to the roots of the parent male fig.
The fig wasps have left and these male Ficus sagittata figs are now rotting next to the roots of the parent male fig liana.