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Article Dans Une Revue Annals of Botany Année : 2015

Fluid physico-chemical properties influence capture and diet in Nepenthes pitcher plants


Background and Aims. Nepenthes pitcher plants have evolved modified leaves with slippery surfaces and enzymatic fluids that trap and digest prey, faeces and/or plant detritus. Although the fluid’s contribution to insect capture is recognized, the physico-chemical properties involved remain underexplored and may vary among species, influencing their diet type. This study investigates the contributions of acidity and viscoelasticity in the fluid’s capture efficiency of two ant and two fly species in four Nepenthes species with different nutrition strategies. Methods. Four Nepenthes species were studied, namely N. rafflesiana, N. gracilis, N. hemsleyana and N. ampullaria. Fluid was collected from pitchers of varying ages from plants growing in the field and immediately transferred to glass vials, and individual ants (tribe Campotini, Fomicinae) and flies (Calliphora vomitoria and Drosophila melanogaster) were dropped in and observed for 5min. Water-filled vials were used as controls. Survival and lifetime data were analysed using models applied to right-censored observations. Additional laboratory experiments were carried out in which C. vomitoria flies were immersed in pH-controlled aqueous solutions and observed for 5min. Key Results. Pitcher fluid differed amongNepenthes species as regards insect retention capacity and time-to-kill, with differences observed between prey types. Only the fluids of the reputedly insectivorous species were very acidic and/or viscoelastic and retained significantly more insects than the water controls. Viscoelastic fluids were fatal to flies and were able to trap the broadest diversity of insects. Younger viscoelastic fluids showed a better retention ability than older fluids, although with less rapid killing ability, suggesting that a chemical action follows a mechanical one. Insect retention increased exponentially with fluid viscoelasticity, and this happened more abruptly and at a lower threshold for flies compared with ants. Flies were more often retained if they fell into the traps on their backs, thus wetting their wings. Insect retention and death rate increased with fluid acidity, with a lower threshold for ants than for flies, and the time-to-kill decreased with increasing acidity. The laboratory experiments showed that fewer flies escaped from acidic solutions compared with water. Conclusions. In addition to viscoelasticity, the pitcher’s fluid acidity and wetting ability influence the fate of insects and hence the diet of Nepenthes. The plants might select the prey that they retain by manipulating the secretion of Hþ ions and polysaccharides in their pitcher fluid. This in turn might participate in possible adaptive radiation of this genus with regard to nutrient sequestration strategy. These plants might even structurally influence insect fallorientation and capture-probability, inspiring biomimetic designs for pest control.

Dates et versions

hal-02388642 , version 1 (02-12-2019)



Vincent Bazile, Gilles Le Moguedec, David Marshall, Laurence Gaume. Fluid physico-chemical properties influence capture and diet in Nepenthes pitcher plants. Annals of Botany, 2015, 115 (4), pp.705-716. ⟨10.1093/aob/mcu266⟩. ⟨hal-02388642⟩
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