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Keywords:

  • carnivorous plant;
  • Drosera (sundew);
  • leaf stickiness;
  • prey capture;
  • carbon;
  • nutrient balance theory;
  • shade;
  • inorganic nutrients

Summary

  • • 
    Carnivory in plants is restricted to nutrient-poor and open habitats presumably because of high benefits and/or low costs of carnivory in these conditions. Carnivory is costly because the plants need specific adaptations to capture prey. Drosera rotundifolia produces sticky substances on its leaf surface to catch prey. These substances are primarily carbon-based, and their production can be expected to be lower in shade. The benefit of carnivory is in terms of the increased nutritional gain which will be low when inorganic nutrients are available in the growth medium. We expected that investment in carnivory would be lower in shade and nutrient-rich conditions.
  • • 
    A factorial experiment involving shading and the addition of inorganic nutrients confirmed these predictions in the carnivorous, perennial herb D. rotundifolia.
  • • 
    Plants growing in shade or in media with nutrients added had less sticky leaves and had reduced their investment in carnivory.
  • • 
    Interestingly, the observed changes in the stickiness of the leaves were in accord with the carbon/nutrient balance theory, whereas a carbon-based secondary compound, 7-methyljuglone, in the leaves did not respond to shading or nutrient addition.