One Tiny Wasp Turns a Fig Tree Into a 150-Foot-High Eden
Birds, bats, monkeys by the dozen: A fruiting fig tree is a riot of life. It all goes back to the tree's ancient partnership with an insect.
“This is what makes them very special: At any point in time in the tropical forest, there is a fig that has fruit.”
German photographer Christian Ziegler, a tropical biologist by training who lives on the edge of a Panamanian rain forest, is talking about one of his obsessions. Where other trees have distinct fruiting seasons, Ziegler explains, figs are always available somewhere in the forest. And so especially in lean times—even a rain forest has a dry season—a fruiting fig can become a mob scene, like a watering hole in the Serengeti. Birds, monkeys, bats, insects—dozens of species congregate on a single tree, feasting in a noisy frenzy.
The origins of the feast go back 75 million years. That’s