Natural microcosms are invaluable examples of simple, but realistic representations of the world. This inherent realism and relative simplicity make them favoured models to investigate natural ecological and evolutionary processes. Yet, for decades, research has been conducted on an assemblage of artificial communities in artificial microcosms in order to distil the essence of what may be occurring in the real world. Although natural microcosms have none of the drawbacks of artificial microcosms, yet with the exception of few model microcosms, they have not received the attention they deserve as opportunities to address diverse questions at ecosystem (in this case, microcosm) scales. We attempt to show, using our own work on figs (Ficus) and a myrmecophyte or ant-plant (Humboldtia), that the microcosm of the fig syconium and ant-plant domatium are small worlds that contain myriad processes, and that figs and ant-plants should be viewed as important model systems from the perspective of microcosm functioning.