Carnivorous plants: Mass march of termites into the deadly trap

Fachbereich Biologie, Zoologisches Institut, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Postfach 111932, 60054 Frankfurt, Germany.
Nature (Impact Factor: 38.6). 01/2002; 415(6867):36-37. DOI: 10.1038/415036a

ABSTRACT Carnivorous pitcher plants of the genus

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    ABSTRACT: Interspecific relationships such as mutualism and parasitism are major drivers of biodiversity. Because such interactions often comprise more than two species, ecological studies increasingly focus on complex multispecies systems. However, the spatial heterogeneity of multi-species interactions is often poorly understood. Here, we investigate the unusual interaction of a bat (Kerivoula hardwickii hardwickii) and two pitcher plant species (Nepenthes hemsleyana and N. bicalcarata) whose pitchers serve as roost for bats. Nepenthes hemsleyana offers roosts of higher quality, indicated by a more stable microclimate compared to N. bicalcarata but occurs at lower abundance and is less common than the latter. Whereas N. hemsleyana benefits from the roosting bats by gaining nitrogen from their feces, the bats' interaction with N. bicalcarata seems to be commensal or even parasitic. Bats stayed longer in roosts of higher quality provided by N. hemsleyana and preferred them to pitchers of N. bicalcarata in a disturbance experiment. Moreover, bats roosting only in pitchers of N. hemsleyana had a higher body condition and were less infested with parasites compared to bats roosting in pitchers of N. bicalcarata. Our study shows how the local supply of roosts with different qualities affects the behavior and status of their inhabitants and-as a consequence-how the demand of the inhabitants can influence evolutionary adaptations of the roost providing species.
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    ABSTRACT: Carnivorous plants acquire most of their nutrients by capturing ants, insects and other arthropods through their leaf-evolved biological traps. So far, the best-known attractants in carnivorous prey traps are nectar, colour and olfactory cues. Here, fresh prey traps of 14 Nepenthes, five Sarracenia, five Drosera, two Pinguicula species/hybrids, Dionaea muscipula and Utricularia stellaris were scanned at UV 366 nm. Fluorescence emissions of major isolates of fresh Nepenthes khasiana pitcher peristomes were recorded at an excitation wavelength of 366 nm. N. khasiana field pitcher peristomes were masked by its slippery zone extract, and prey capture rates were compared with control pitchers. We found the existence of distinct blue fluorescence emissions at the capture spots of Nepenthes, Sarracenia and Dionaea prey traps at UV 366 nm. These alluring blue emissions gradually developed with the growth of the prey traps and diminished towards their death. On excitation at 366 nm, N. khasiana peristome 3:1 CHCl3–MeOH extract and its two major blue bands showed strong fluorescence emissions at 430–480 nm. Masking of blue emissions on peristomes drastically reduced prey capture in N. khasiana pitchers. We propose these molecular emissions as a critical factor attracting arthropods and other visitors to these carnivorous traps. Drosera, Pinguicula and Utricularia prey traps showed only red chlorophyll emissions at 366 nm.
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