Pollinator-prey conflict in carnivorous plants

Authors

  • Andreas Jürgens,

    Corresponding author
    1. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, PB 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand
    2. Landcare Research, Canterbury Research Centre, PO Box 69, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
    3. School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, P. Bag X01 Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa
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  • Amber Sciligo,

    1. Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln Canterbury, New Zealand
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  • Taina Witt,

    1. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, PB 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand
    2. Landcare Research, Canterbury Research Centre, PO Box 69, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
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  • Ashraf M. El-Sayed,

    1. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, PB 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • D. Max Suckling

    1. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, PB 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand
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(Tel: +27 (0)33-2606492; Fax +27 (0)33-2605105; E-mail: juergensa@ukzn.ac.za).

Abstract

Most carnivorous plants utilize insects in two ways: the flowers attract insects as pollen vectors for sexual reproduction, and the leaves trap insects for nutrients. Feeding on insects has been explained as an adaptation to nutrient-poor soil, and carnivorous plants have been shown to benefit from insect capture through increased growth, earlier flowering and increased seed production. Most carnivorous plant species seem to benefit from insect pollination, although many species autonomously self-pollinate and some propagate vegetatively. However, assuming that outcross pollen is advantageous and is a more important determinant of reproductive success than the nutrients gained from prey, there should be a selective pressure on carnivorous plants not to feed on their potential pollen vectors. Therefore, it has been suggested that carnivorous plants are subject to a conflict, often called the pollinator-prey conflict (PPC). The conflict results from a trade-off of the benefits from feeding on potentially pollinating insects versus the need to use them as pollen vectors for sexual reproduction. In this review we analyze the conditions under which a PPC may occur, review the evidence for the existence of PPCs in carnivorous plants, and explore the mechanisms that may be in place to prevent or alleviate a PPC. With respect to the latter, we discuss how plant signals such as olfactory and visual cues may play a role in separating the functions of pollinator attraction and prey capture.

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