Article

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: 41.46). 01/2002; 415(6867):36-37. DOI: 10.1038/415036a

ABSTRACT

Carnivorous pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes are not usually very selective about their prey, catching anything that is careless enough to walk on their slippery peristome, but Nepenthes albomarginata is an exception. We show here that this plant uses a fringe of edible white hairs to lure and then trap its prey, which consists exclusively of termites in enormous numbers. This singular feature accounts for the specialization of N. albomarginata for one prey taxon, unique so far among carnivorous plants.

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    • "For example, Nepenthes ampullaria derives a significant proportion of its nitrogen from interception of falling leaf litter (Moran et al., 2003; Pavlovič et al., 2011), while four other species (Nepenthes baramensis, Nepenthes lowii, Nepenthes rajah and Nepenthes macrophylla) sequester nutrients from mammalian excreta (Clarke et al., 2009; Chin et al., 2010; Grafe et al., 2011; Wells et al., 2011). Nepenthes albomarginata is a termite specialist (Moran et al., 2001; Merbach et al., 2002), and Nepenthes bicalcarata has a mutualistic nutritional association with the ant Camponotus schmitzi (Clarke and Kitching, 1995; Merbach et al., 2007; Bazile et al., 2012; Thornham et al., 2012). However, the majority of Nepenthes species studied thus far capture and digest a range of small arthropods, and many are particularly attractive to ants (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background and Aims Nepenthes (Nepenthaceae, approx. 120 species) are carnivorous pitcher plants with a centre of diversity comprising the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Nepenthes pitchers use three main mechanisms for capturing prey: epicuticular waxes inside the pitcher; a wettable peristome (a collar-shaped structure around the opening); and viscoelastic fluid. Previous studies have provided evidence suggesting that the first mechanism may be more suited to seasonal climates, whereas the latter two might be more suited to perhumid environments. In this study, this idea was tested using climate envelope modelling.
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    • "It is likely that the nutritional benefits more than compensate the costs that N. bicalcarata might incur for housing the ants, such as the possible nutrient export via winged males and queens of C. schmitzi itself, the production of hollow tendril domatia and an increased nectar secretion [18]. Our study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that many alternative nutrient acquisition strategies have evolved in the genus Nepenthes [27], [37], [49]–[54]. "
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    • "The compact anatomy of traps (reminiscent of roots), which is to restrict apoplastic conductivity (Pavlovič et al., 2007), serves the selective symplastic transport of nutrients gained from carnivory. Investments in the following cause considerable maintenance costs: attractants such as nectars and odours (Juniper et al., 1989; Moran, 1996; Bohn and Federle, 2004; Bennett and Ellison, 2009; Bhattarai and Horner, 2009; Jürgens et al., 2009); edible trichomes (Merbach et al., 2002); colourful projections (Schaefer and Ruxton, 2008) and UV patterns (Moran et al., 1999); resinous droplets (Voigt and Gorb, 2010) or slime that in Drosophyllum has a scent of honey, which may mimic nectar (Jürgens et al., 2009); glands excreting mucilage (Drosera, Pinguicula, Byblis) or a hydrophobic resin (Roridula) to catch prey (Juniper et al., 1989); glands excreting digestive enzymes – these digestive glands, with their attendant mechanisms for simultaneous enzyme secretion and nutrient absorption are an anatomical birthmark of the carnivorous syndrome (Lüttge, 1971; Benzing et al., 1976); exudation of organic compounds to support the microbial community associated with the traps (Sirová et al., 2009, 2010); and nutrient uptake machinery (An et al., 2001) required for functioning of each single trap (Knight, 1992; Adamec, 2006, 2010a; Pavlovič et al., 2007; Hájek and Adamec, 2010). Therefore, it is not surprising that the dual use of leaves for photosynthesis and nutrient uptake has deeply reduced the net photosynthetic rate of terrestrial carnivorous plants, leading ultimately to reduction of the relative growth rate (Ellison, 2006; Farnsworth and Ellison, 2008); giant carnivorous species are the exception rather than the rule: Triphyophyllum peltatum, Nepenthes rajah, N. edwardsi ana, N. ampullaria, N. rafflesiana and N. rafflesiana var. "
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