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Title: Species composition and patterns of diversity in fig wasp communities
Author: Darwell, Clive T.
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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Here I use the wasps associated with figs (Ficus, Moraceae) to investigate a central theme of describing and understanding the composition and patterns of diversity among fig wasp communities, largely with respect to geography. Namely. in describing a community, what factors need to be considered, what methods need to be implemented, and what evolutionary and ecological processes can be identified as having shaped the observed patterns. An introductory chapter outlines a number of issues in ecology with particular focus on fig wasps. Chapter 2 investigates the efficacy and level of agreement between modern molecular techniques in assessing species boundaries in the pollinating wasps of the Australian fig species, Ficus rubiginosa. Varying methods are equivocal but the performance of the ITS2 barcoding gene proves efficient and effective. Chapter 3 draws on these species delimitation findings to assess the diversity among the complex parasitic wasp communities that exploit two Australian fig-pollinating wasp mutualisms (F. rubiginosa and F. obliqua). In this chapter I am also able to test ecological hypotheses about the processes driving the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Molecular species delimitation techniques augment species richness estimates whilst some fig wasp diversity patterns are predictable by a combination of morphological, molecular taxonomy and abundance criteria. Chapter 4 revisits the pollinating wasps of F. rubiginosa and shows them displaying disparities in demographic histories and population genetics that may explain these cryptic species' co-existence. Chapter 5 increases in geographical scope and compares the composition of two intercontinental fig wasp communities in China and Australia that are associated with the same wide-ranging fig species, F. benjamina. Molecular comparisons show that these communities appear similar despite being entirely composed of different species, whilst molecular dating techniques suggest that these communities were separated during periodS of biogeographical range expansion by their fig hosts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available