A carnivorous pitcher plant uses a fringe of edible white hairs to lure and trap termites in large numbers.
Carnivorous pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes catch anything that walk on their slippery peristome, but one species Nepenthes albomarginata is an exception, attract enormous numbers of termites through an unknown mechanism. In January 3 Nature, Marlis Merbach and colleagues from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, show that N. albomarginata uses a fringe of edible white hairs exclusively to lure and then trap termites in large numbers.
Merbach et al. studied N. albomarginata growing in Brunei and observed that some plants possessed a unique rim of white trichomes directly below the peristome, which was seen to be missing from pitchers that had caught termites. They then placed fresh, intact pitchers and pitchers that had their trichomes removed near Hospitalitermes bicolor termite foraging columns and compared how many termites were caught. After about an hour, the hairs of fresh pitchers were all gone and the...
Interested in reading more?
Become a Member of
Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!