What, actually, are figs?

I just found a new reason to dislike figs from the market. I don’t like them in the first place but they tend to come with the mixed nuts that I have as snacks. I bought the one with figs before realizing how hard to chew they are. Anyway, spoiler, figs have wasp:

Figs are not actually fruits but a mass of inverted flowers and seeds that are pollinated by a species of tiny symbiotic wasps. The male fig flower is the only place where the female wasp can lay her eggs, at the bottom of a narrow opening in the fruit that she shimmies her way through. The baby wasps mature inside the fig into males that have sharp teeth but no wings and females ready to fly. They mate, the males chew through the special fig pollen holders and drop them down to the females, chew holes in the skin of the fig to let the females out, and then die. The females, armed with the pollen, fly off in search of new male figs to lay her eggs in. In the process some of the female wasps land on female figs that don’t have the special egg receptacle but trick the female into shimmying inside. As the female wasp slides through the narrow passage in the fig her wings are ripped off (egg laying is a one-way mission) and while she is unsuccessful in laying her eggs, she successfully pollinates the female flower. The female flower then ripens into the fig that you can get at the supermarket, digesting the trapped wasp inside with specialized enzymes! (Source: ScienceBlogs)

A related video:

NATURE | The Queen of Trees | Wasps Inside the Fig | PBS

This is one part of nature that I am amazed about — that two species so different can be made so interdependent to each other. It almost seemed like perfect engineering.

Venus flytrap in action

Catch the Venus Flytrap in Action.

Venus Flytrap in Action

I haven’t seen this before so it’s pretty cool for me.

The Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey—mostly insects and arachnids. Its trapping structure is formed by a portion of each of the plant’s leaves and is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces. When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves comes into contact with one or more of the hairs twice in succession, the trap closes. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against the spurious expending of energy toward trapping other, non-living things which may not reward the plant with similar nutrition. (Source: WikipediaVenus flytrap in action)

Super ants are taking over Europe

The typical old native ants are an annoyance? Newer ones may be replacing them soon:

Super-Ant Taking Over Europe

An ant species that originated in the Black Sea region has invaded more than 100 areas across Europe and is moving north. Scientists say if it is not stopped, it will reach Northern Germany, Scandinavia and Britain and could invade the whole world. 

The pest, called Lasius neglectus, destroys native ant species as it invades new territory. It has also invaded much of Asia.

Ants thrive all over the world because they are very adaptive. Urban ants, for example, have adapted to the extreme heat of city living. Scientists estimate there are about 20,000 different species globally. The combined weight of ants in the Brazilian Amazon is thought to be four times greater than the combined mass of all of the mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians there.

For example, The non-native red fire ant causes about $750 million of damage in the United States every year, the authors of the new study point out. And the Argentine ant has spread along thousands of miles of coastline in southern Europe, exterminating the natural insect fauna. In California, the Argentine ant armieshave nearly wiped out all native ants.

L. neglectus resembles the common black garden ant, but its colonies involve up to 100 times more workers. It frequently settles in parks and gardens, the researchers say, and it quickly exterminates native ants.

So how do they spread across a continent? They infest potted plants, and humans carry them far and wide, the researchers said.

“The future will therefore see many more ants become invasive, so it is about time we understand their biology and this study is a major step in that direction,” said Jes S. Pedersen, who coordinates the invasive ant program in Copenhagen. (Source: Yahoo!)

We should feed them with cup cakes.