Carnivorous plants that evolved to eat animal feces have a more nutritious diet than their insect-eating cousins
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Several species of tropical pitcher plants were reported over ten years ago. Nepenthes Seeds changed their diet from insects to animal droppings.But thanks to new research, we now know why they did.
About 160 species of carnivorous plants are known. They all live in nutrient-poor soil and have evolved modified leaves shaped like jugs filled with digestive juices to digest the bodies of insects, spiders and sometimes larger creatures such as frogs and frogs. This captures rare nutrients, especially nitrogen, but also carbon and phosphorus. Even small rodents that fell inside.
“They are [pitchers] Evolved primarily as a means of attracting, trapping and digesting prey, they have arisen in the form of so-called “lower pitchers” and “upper pitchers”, specialized in capturing crawling and flying insects, respectively. Adam Cross, a research, botanist and restorative ecologist, is a Senior His Research Fellow in the Department of Molecular Life Sciences. Curtin UniversityDr. Cross is an internationally renowned authority on the ecology and conservation of carnivorous plants.
“Pitcher shape, size and color vary greatly between species. Nepenthes, but most species have an overhanging operculum, a more or less cylindrical peristome (flat, sometimes markedly flanged or toothed) surrounding the mouth of the pitcher, and an upper waxy zone supra. produces a pitcher with an inner wall containing a glandular zone at (Figure 1).
Carnivorous plants use sweet-smelling nectar to lure potential prey. The prey slides across the smooth surface and falls into a liquid-filled tubular pitcher where it becomes trapped.
“Captive animals are drowned in an enzymatic cocktail that accelerates prey decomposition and nutrient acquisition,” Dr. Cross elaborated.
However, some carnivorous plants in the tropics have evolved to utilize more abundant nitrogen sources than insects. It’s mammal feces.
“A handful of Nepenthes species have evolved from being carnivorous to eating animal feces,” said senior co-author of the study, taxonomist and field botanist Alastair Robinson. Royal Botanic Garden VictoriaWidely known as a world authority on carnivorous plants Nepenthes.
These plants live at very high altitudes in the tropics of Borneo. Nepenthes LoiFor example, it is only found in mountaintop cloud forests at altitudes between about 1676.4 meters (5,500 feet) and 2591 meters (8,500 feet) above sea level. The stems of this climbing plant can reach lengths of 30 feet or more, and individual vines are about 4 inches in diameter. N.Loui The pitcher is notable for its unique shape, strongly reminiscent of a toilet bowl, and has a lid (a leafy part that helps keep out heavy rain).
Poop-digesting pitcher plants were first discovered in 2009, when mountain shrews feed on the sticky nectar produced from pitcher lids before pooping in the urinal-like “bowls” of these plants. You may remember that it was discovered that Departure(reference). Subsequent research discovered more of these rare plants. These plants can also eat the feces of summit rats, woolly bats, and even small birds known as mountain blackeyes. But instead of tricking their targets, these plants allow animals to eat nectar.
However, until now, it remains to be seen how effective this unusual strategy is for plants collecting scarce nutrients from the environment, and how dung-based diets compare to insect-rich diets of other carnivorous plants. It wasn’t known exactly how nutritious it was.
Dr. Robinson, Dr. Cross, and their collaborators determined the amount of nitrogen obtained externally (15N) and carbon (13C) Isotopes were present in tissue samples collected from 10 pitcher plants. They then compared poop eaters to their lower-altitude, insect-eating cousins, and also tested locally-dwelling non-carnivorous plants as controls.
they found it 15N was significantly enriched in all Nepenthes tested against nearby non-carnivorous plants, 15N levels were more than twice as high Nepenthes Evolved to capture the feces of mammals rather than insect-eating species. Interestingly, researchers note that bird droppings provide slightly less nitrogen, but are more nutritious than carnivorous diets.
“We found that species that capture mammalian faeces captured more than twice as much nitrogen as other species. Nepenthes‘ speculated Dr. Robinson.
But what drives these plants to evolve away from eating insects?
“Insect prey is scarce on tropical mountaintops above 2200 meters, so these plants may provide nutritional benefits by collecting and retaining lesser and more valuable sources of nitrogen, such as tree droppings. maximize it,” explained Dr. Robinson.
This study beautifully illustrates the close relationship between ecology and evolution. Pitcher plants high in the mountains need to be more resourceful to get enough nutrients to thrive.
Adam T. Cross, Antony van der Ent, Miriam Wickmann, Laura M. Skates, Sukaibin Sumail, Gerhard Gebauer, Alastair Robinson (2022). capture of mammalian excrement by Nepenthes is an effective heterotrophic strategy, chronological botany 130: 927–938 | Doi:10.1093/aob/mcac134
Charles M. Clarke, Ulrike Bauer, Ch’ien C. Lee, Andrew A. Tuen, Katja Rembold, Jonathan A. Moran (2009). Tree tree litter: a new nitrogen sequestration strategy in tropical pitcher plants Tree tree litter: a new nitrogen sequestration strategy in tropical pitcher plants, biology letter, Five:632–635 | Doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0311
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