The array of biomolecules generated by a functioning ecosystem represents both a potential resource for sustainable harvest and a potential indicator of ecosystem health and function. The cupped leaves of the carnivorous pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, harbor a dynamic food web of aquatic invertebrates in a fully functional miniature ecosystem. The energetic base of this food web consists of insect prey, which is shredded by aquatic invertebrates and decomposed by microbes. Biomolecules and metabolites produced by this food web are actively exchanged with the photosynthesizing plant. In this report, we provide the first proteomic characterization of the sacrophagid fly (Fletcherimyia fletcheri), the pitcher plant mosquito (Wyeomyia smithii), and the pitcher-plant midge (Metriocnemus knabi). These three arthropods act as predators, filter feeders, and shredders at distinct trophic levels within the S. purpurea food web. More than 50 proteins from each species were identified, ten of which were predominantly or uniquely found in one species. Furthermore, 19 peptides unique to one of the three species were identified using an assembled database of 100 metazoan myosin heavy chain orthologs. These molecular signatures may be useful in species monitoring within heterogeneous ecosystem biomass and may also serve as indicators of ecosystem state.
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