Journal Article

Effect of pitcher age on trapping efficiency and natural prey capture in carnivorous <i>Nepenthes rafflesiana</i> plants

Ulrike Bauer, Christoph Willmes and Walter Federle

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 8, pages 1219-1226
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp065
Effect of pitcher age on trapping efficiency and natural prey capture in carnivorous Nepenthes rafflesiana plants

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Nepenthes pitchers are sophisticated traps that employ a variety of mechanisms to attract, capture and retain prey. The underlying morphological structures and physiological processes are subject to change over the lifetime of a pitcher. Here an investigation was carried out on how pitcher properties and capture efficiency change over the first 2 weeks after pitcher opening.

Methods

Prey capture, trapping efficiency, extrafloral nectar secretion, pitcher odour, as well as pH and viscoelasticity of the digestive fluid in N. rafflesiana pitchers were monitored in the natural habitat from pitcher opening up to an age of 2 weeks.

Key Results

Pitchers not only increased their attractiveness over this period by becoming more fragrant and secreting more nectar, but also gained mechanical trapping efficiency via an enhanced wettability of the upper pitcher rim (peristome). Consistently, natural prey capture was initially low and increased 3–6 d after opening. It was, however, highly variable within and among pitchers. At the same time, the pH and viscoelasticity of the digestive fluid decreased, suggesting that the latter is not essential for effective prey capture.

Conclusions

Prey capture and attraction by Nepenthes are dynamic processes strongly influenced by the changing properties of the pitcher. The results confirm insect aquaplaning on the peristome as the main capture mechanism in N. rafflesiana.

Keywords: Carnivorous plants; pitcher development; prey attraction; prey capture; insect aquaplaning; extrafloral nectar; Nepenthes rafflesiana

Journal Article.  5886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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