Ficus is one of the largest plant genera of the tropics, which enjoys a cosmopolitan distribution. There are about 755 fig tree species worldwide, with around 511 of them occurring in the Indo-Australasian region (Asia, Malaysia, Pacific islands and Australia) and approximately 132 in the Neotropical region (Central and South America) (van Noort, Gardiner and Tolley, 2007). Ten species are native to Polynesia, but only six are found in American Samoa, which are aoa (Ficus prolixa), aoa (Ficus obliqua), mati (Ficus scabra), mati (Ficus uniauriculata), mati (Ficus godeffroyi), and mati (Ficus tinctoria) (Whistler, 2004).
Individuals of this genus, the “fig trees” as they are generally called are noted for their peculiar habit, varied diversity and strange relationship with small hymenopteran insects called fig wasps (van Noort & Compton 1988).
Cook (2003) reported that fig trees are considered one important food factor for monkeys, bats, and other animals. They play a crucial role in maintaining the populations and diversity of rainforest animals.
Ficus is identified as one of the ‘keystone species’ in many tropical and subtropical ecosystems, because of the all year round production of figs, providing food for a number of vertebrates and breeding place for invertebrates (Terbogh, 1986). A study in the African cities Komura, Mohyen-Chari, and Chad (Mandang area) showed that more than 440sp. of insect, 59sp. of birds and 17sp. of mammals directly depend on 15sp. of commonly occurring Ficus for their livelihood (Basset, Novotny, and Weiblen 1997). Pigeons, doves, and other frugivorous birds found in American Samoa feed on the fruits of the Ficus scabra and Ficus tinctoria (Whistler, 2004). In 2005, Utzurrum reported at least 42 plant species provide food for bats in American Samoa, which consist of two fig trees, F.prolixa and F.obliqua.
The fig insects can be generally classified into two categories, the pollinators and the...