Aug 21 2012

Food, Shelter and Trap

Published by at 7:20 am under Plants

Continuing on the theme of strange predators here’s interesting news about a plant that preys on insects.

Nepenthes gracilis is a tropical pitcher plant native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.  Like all pitcher plants it eats insects by trapping them in the digestive fluid at the bottom of its tubed-shaped pitcher.  The inner surface is slippery when wet to enhance the trapping effect.

This is dangerous for an insect, so why would an ant bother to get near the pitcher opening?  Why would it go under the lid?

Nepenthes gracilis tempts insects with a tasty nectar coating on the underside of the lid.  In fair weather a skillful bug can perch on the edge, eat the treat, and walk away.

But in the tropics it rains often and heavily.  Sometimes insects seek shelter under the lid or are eating underneath it when the rain begins… and then…

Researchers discovered that heavy raindrops prompt the insects’ demise.  The lid is poised like a springboard.  The weight of a raindrop springs the trap and catapults the insect into the bottom of the pitcher.

Sneaky!  Food, shelter and trap.

Read more about this discovery in the PLOS One article.

(photo from the PLOS One article by Bauer, U., B. Di Giusto, J. Skepper, T.U. Grafe & W. Federle 2012, (CC-BY-SA), Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the photo to see the original)

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