An Inside Look at Pitcher Plants
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.
Predicting food-web structure with metacommunity models
Nepenthes pitfall traps are an anti-microbial environment