Journal Article

Mineral nutrient uptake from prey and glandular phosphatase activity as a dual test of carnivory in semi-desert plants with glandular leaves suspected of carnivory

Bartosz Jan Płachno, Lubomír Adamec and Hervé Huet

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 4, pages 649-654
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp155
Mineral nutrient uptake from prey and glandular phosphatase activity as a dual test of carnivory in semi-desert plants with glandular leaves suspected of carnivory

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Background and Aims

Ibicella lutea and Proboscidea parviflora are two American semi-desert species of glandular sticky plants that are suspected of carnivory as they can catch small insects. The same characteristics might also hold for two semi-desert plants with glandular sticky leaves from Israel, namely Cleome droserifolia and Hyoscyamus desertorum. The presence of proteases on foliar hairs, either secreted by the plant or commensals, detected using a simple test, has long been considered proof of carnivory. However, this test does not prove whether nutrients are really absorbed from insects by the plant. To determine the extent to which these four species are potentially carnivorous, hair secretion of phosphatases and uptake of N, P, K and Mg from fruit flies as model prey were studied in these species and in Roridula gorgonias and Drosophyllum lusitanicum for comparison. All species examined possess morphological and anatomical adaptations (hairs or emergences secreting sticky substances) to catch and kill small insects.

Methods

The presence of phosphatases on foliar hairs was tested using the enzyme-labelled fluorescence method. Dead fruit flies were applied to glandular sticky leaves of experimental plants and, after 10–15 d, mineral nutrient content in their spent carcasses was compared with initial values in intact flies after mineralization.

Key Results

Phosphatase activity was totally absent on Hyoscyamus foliar hairs, a certain level of activity was usually found in Ibicella, Proboscidea and Cleome, and a strong response was found in Drosophyllum. Roridula exhibited only epidermal activity. However, only Roridula and Drosophyllum took up nutrients (N, P, K and Mg) from applied fruit flies.

Conclusions

Digestion of prey and absorption of their nutrients are the major features of carnivory in plants. Accordingly, Roridula and Drosophyllum appeared to be fully carnivorous; by contrast, all other species examined are non-carnivorous as they did not meet the above criteria.

Keywords: Roridula gorgonias; Drosophyllum lusitanicum; Proboscidea parviflora; Ibicella lutea; Cleome droserifolia; Hyoscyamus desertorum; phosphatase; phosphomonoesters; fruit flies; N, P, K, Mg uptake from prey

Journal Article.  3671 words.  Illustrated.

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

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