Navigation Links
An inside look at carnivorous plants
Date:4/2/2013

When we imagine drama playing out between predators and prey, most of us picture stealthy lions and restless gazelle, or a sharp-taloned hawk latched on to an unlucky squirrel. But Ben Baiser, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Forest and lead author of a new study in Oikos, thinks on a more local scale. His inter-species drama plays out in the humble bogs and fens of eastern North America, home to the carnivorous pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea. "It's shocking, the complex world you can find inside one little pitcher plant," says Baiser.

A pitcher plant's work seems simple: their tube-shaped leaves catch and hold rainwater, which drowns the ants, beetles, and flies that stumble in.

But the rainwater inside a pitcher plant is not just a malevolent dunking pool. It also hosts a complex system of aquatic life, including wriggling mosquito, flesh fly, and midge larvae; mites; rotifers; copepods; nematodes; and multicellular algae. These tiny organisms are crucial to the pitcher plant's ability to process food. They create what scientists call a 'processing chain': when a bug drowns in the pitcher's rainwater, midge larvae swim up and shred it to smaller pieces, bacteria eat the shredded pieces, rotifers eat the bacteria, and the pitcher plant absorbs the rotifers' waste.

But that's not the whole story. Fly larvae are also eating the rotifers, midge larvae, and each other, and everybody eats bacteria. It's a complex food web that shifts on the order of seconds.

Aaron Ellison, a co-author on the new study and senior ecologist at the Harvard Forest, says the pitcher plant food web is an ideal model for understanding larger food webswith top predators like wolvesthat change over a longer period of time. He points out, "With pitcher plants, you can hold the whole food web in your hand. The vast number of pitcher plants in one bog provide endless opportunities for detailed experiments on how food webs work, not only in pitcher plants, but also in bigger ecosystems that are harder to manipulate, like ponds, lakes, or oceans."

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the research team traveled to bogs in British Columbia, Quebec City, and Georgiathe full extent of the plant's rangeto analyze the aquatic food webs from 60 pitcher plants. They found 35 different types of organisms inside, with a large contingent of bacteria counting as just one type. Then, says Baiser, "We wanted to know: how did we get different food webs in individual pitchers from the same species pool? What caused these food webs to form the way they did?"

A few well-established scientific models predict how food webs form based on a ranked system of ecosystem factors. For the Oikos study, Baiser and his team checked their real-world observations against those models. He explains: "Say you've got a bunch of lakes. And you've got a big bucket holding all the species that can live in those lakes. When you dump out the bucket, which creatures end up in which lake? What matters more: the size of the lake, or the fact that predator species X is there, too? Or is it random? Those models help us tease those factors apart."

According to the Oikos study, the way pitcher plant food webs assemble is not random. In fact, it seems the predator-prey interactions are of key importance. "You take out one species, and that affects everything else," says Baiser.


'/>"/>

Contact: Clarisse Hart
hart3@fas.harvard.edu
978-756-6157
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Cholesterol rafts deliver drugs inside cancer cells
2. New monoclonal antibody developed that can target proteins inside cancer cells
3. Ovarian tumor, with teeth and a bone fragment inside, found in a Roman-age skeleton
4. Pressure switch inside the head
5. Deep inside the body, tiny mechanical microscope
6. Bacterial community inside the plant root
7. A step toward minute factories that produce medicine inside the body
8. Seeing inside tissue
9. Understanding faults and volcanics, plus life inside a rock
10. Spanish researcher releases a video showing a beetle from the inside
11. Key to immune system disease could lie inside the cheek
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/28/2017)... 28, 2017 The report "Video ... Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, VMS), and ... Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market ... is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion by 2022, ... The base year considered for the study is 2016 ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... March 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for ... Continue Reading ... ... Deputy Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... 2017 The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market ... - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to ... between 2017 and 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:9/22/2017)... ... September 22, 2017 , ... Precision Periodontics and Implant ... and LAPIP™ laser treatments. Drs. Hoge and Zalewsky are members of an elite ... and less painful option that produces real results. , "Like many of my ...
(Date:9/21/2017)... ... September 21, 2017 , ... Dr. Greg Leyer, Chief ... NV on September 27th. His presentation is at 12:10pm in the Probiotics Resource Center, ... present at SupplySide West and discuss how probiotics have shown impressive data in areas ...
(Date:9/21/2017)... ... September 21, 2017 , ... Today, BioPharma Institute, a leading ... addition of 5 new courses to its prospectus. These include the eagerly-awaited ... Part 11 on Electronic Records and Electronic Signatures (Part 11 of Title 21 ...
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... The award-winning producers behind the ... feature new innovations aimed at helping farmers solve the problem of nitrogen loss. ... Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. Check your local listings for more info. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: