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An experimental test of the defensive role of sticky traps in the carnivorous plant Pinguicula moranensis (Lentibulariaceae)

Authors

  • Raúl E. Alcalá,

    1. Depto de Ecología, CEAMISH-Universidad Autónoma de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Chamilpa, MX–62209, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México
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  • Néstor A. Mariano,

    1. Depto de Ecología, CEAMISH-Universidad Autónoma de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Chamilpa, MX–62209, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México
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  • Felipe Osuna,

    1. Depto de Ecología, CEAMISH-Universidad Autónoma de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Chamilpa, MX–62209, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México
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  • César A. Abarca

    1. Depto de Ecología, CEAMISH-Universidad Autónoma de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Chamilpa, MX–62209, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México
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R. E. Alcalá, Depto de Ecología, CEAMISH-Universidad Autónoma de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Chamilpa, MX–62209, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México. E-mail: raul.alcala@uaem.mx

Abstract

It has been sustained that the sticky traps present in some carnivorous plants could have evolved from ancestor species bearing leaves covered with secreting glands formerly associated with a defensive function. In this study, we evaluated the interaction of the carnivorous plant Pinguicula moranensis with its insect herbivores to assess the defensive role of the glandular trichomes. Firstly, we estimated the standing levels of insect herbivory in field conditions. We also evaluated the response of herbivore insects to the removal of the secreting glands from the leaves of P. moranensis in field and laboratory conditions. The mean damage was 1.61%, and half of the sampled plants showed no damage. The low level of herbivory in the field suggests that P. moranensis has an efficient defense ability. In the field experiment, after 25 d of exposure to natural damage, treated glandless plants received 18 times more damage than control plants. In the laboratory, the consumption of glandless tissue was three times higher during a 6 h evaluation period. Overall, our results provide evidence that secreting trichomes in Pinguicula are not only associated with prey capture but also have a defensive role. The defensive function could have favored the evolution of the sticky traps, the most extended prey-capture strategy among carnivorous plants.

Ancillary