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Efficiency of Insect Capture by Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae), the Northern Pitcher Plant

Sandra J. Newell and Anthony J. Nastase
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 85, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 88-91
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2446558
Page Count: 4
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Efficiency of Insect Capture by Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae), the Northern Pitcher Plant
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Abstract

Pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea L.) attract insects to pitchers and then capture them in fluid-filled, pitfall traps, but how efficient are pitcher plants at capturing prey in their natural environment? We monitored insect activity by videotaping pitchers and analyzing videotapes for several variables including identity of each visitor and outcome of each visit (e.g, departure or capture). Efficiency of capture (i.e, number of captures per number of visits) was low. Overall efficiency of capture was 0.83-0.93%, depending on whether potential prey were broadly or narrowly defined. Ants constituted 74% of the potential prey. Efficiency of capture of ants was even lower at 0.37%. Potential prey were more likely to visit pitchers with greater red venation and less water in the pitcher. There was no correlation between number of potential prey visiting a pitcher and pitcher age, length, or mouth width. Also, number of potential prey visits did not correlate with plant size, air temperature, time of day or date of videotaping. While the overall efficiency of prey capture was very low, pitcher plants may still benefit from the additional nutrients. However, the relationship between ants and S. purpurea remains an enigma, since it is unclear whether the plants capture enough ants to compensate for nectar lost to ants.

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