Year 4, Month 4, Day 14: We’re Not Even Peninsulas

The Columbus Dispatch recycles a story from the NY Times on the intertwined fates of the fig and its little insect symbiote:

There are more than 700 species of wild fig in the tropics. 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.

Now a new study from equatorial Singapore, in the journal Biology Letters, finds that the wasps are vulnerable to climate change, meaning that the wild fig plants are, too. And that is ominous news for many other species, the researchers say, including birds, squirrels and other animals that feed on 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.

Are we Donne yet? April 1:

The microscopic wasps whose life-cycle is bound up with that of the fig tree offer a revealing analogy to our own species current predicament. Plant and insect are so tightly connected that neither’s existence is possible without the other; thinking of them as two independent species is misleading. Rather, they’re part of a single system of mutual support — a system now critically endangered a runaway greenhouse effect.

Similar intimate connections are found everywhere on our planet; symbiosis and interdependence are the rule, not the exception. Only one species — our own — claims exemption, and by reintroducing hundreds of millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere in a geological eyeblink, we have unwittingly rent asunder the tightly woven fabric which sustains us all. The fig-and-wasp partnership is just one of thousands of likely casualties of our hubristic separation from the great web of Earthly life. If we clever apes cannot recognize that no living thing is an island, we’ll find, when we finally ask for whom the bell tolls, that it’s tolling for us.

Warren Senders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *