The heat gets to fig wasps

The heat gets to fig wasps


The heat gets to fig wasps

There are more than 700 species of wild fig in the tropics. Remarkably, most can be pollinated only by a unique species of fig wasp.

In turn, the wasps rely on fig plants as hosts for their eggs. Neither species can survive without the other, a relationship known as obligate mutualism. Now a new study from equatorial Singapore, in the journal Biology Letters, finds that the wasps are very vulnerable to climate change, meaning that the wild fig plants are, too. And that is ominous news for many other species, the researchers say.

 “Figs are a very important food resource in the ecosystem,” said an author of the new report, Nanthinee Jevanandam, a biologist at Aecom in Singapore who did the work as part of her doctoral research at the National University of Singapore. “We have a large range of birds, squirrels, macaques and other primates that feed off figs.”

The scientists found that temperature increases of a few degrees could cut the adult life spans of pollinating fig wasps to just a few hours, from one or two days.Around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the mean daily temperature in Singapore, the life span of the studied wasps ranged from 11 to 24 hours. At 87.8 degrees F, the life span dropped to 6 to 18 hours, and at 93.2 degrees F, it was six hours or less. 

Sindya N BhanooNew York Times News Service

Dozens of species get new trade protections

A major international meeting on wildlife trade signed off on several landmark decisions last month aimed at protecting dozens of animal and plant species, including five types of sharks, that have come under severe pressure from soaring demand. 

The decisions, which came on the final day of a two-week meeting of signatories of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, were welcomed by conservationists, who see restrictions or outright bans on trade as a key tool to preserving threatened wildlife. 

Among the highest-profile decisions at the meeting were moves to regulate for the first time the trade in mantas and in five shark species – the oceanic whitetip, the porbeagle and three types of hammerhead sharks, whose populations have fallen sharply in recent years as demand for their fins, predominantly from China, has risen.

Still, conservationists warned that the shark and manta decisions, and similar actions to regulate the trade in ebony, rosewood and various turtles, did not necessarily herald a broad or lasting shift toward more effective international wildlife protection. 

“We’ve certainly had some important approvals,” said Colman O’Criodain, wildlife trade policy analyst at World Wildlife Fund International, from Bangkok, where the meeting took place. 

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