Different pitcher shapes and trapping syndromes explain resource partitioning in Nepenthes species

Abstract : Nepenthes pitcher plants display interspecific diversity in pitcher form and diets. This species-rich genus might be a conspicuous candidate for an adaptive radiation. However, the pitcher traits of different species have never been quantified in a comparative study, nor have their possible adaptations to the resources they exploit been tested. In this study, we compare the pitcher features and prey composition of the seven Nepenthes taxa that grow in the heath forest of Brunei (Borneo) and investigate whether these species display different trapping syndromes that target different prey. The Nepenthes species are shown to display species-specific combinations of pitcher shapes, volumes, rewards, attraction and capture traits, and different degrees of ontogenetic pitcher dimorphism. The prey spectra also differ among plant species and between ontogenetic morphotypes in their combinations of ants, flying insects, termites, and noninsect guilds. According to a discriminant analysis, the Nepenthes species collected at the same site differ significantly in prey abundance and composition at the level of order, showing niche segregation but with varying degrees of niche overlap according to pairwise species comparisons. Weakly carnivorous species are first characterized by an absence of attractive traits. Generalist car-nivorous species have a sweet odor, a wide pitcher aperture, and an acidic pitcher fluid. Guild specializations are explained by different combinations of morpho-functional traits. Ant captures increase with extrafloral nectar, fluid acidity, and slippery waxy walls. Termite captures increase with narrowness of pitchers, presence of a rim of edible trichomes, and symbiotic association with ants. The abundance of flying insects is primarily correlated with pitcher conic-ity, pitcher aperture diameter, and odor presence. Such species-specific syndromes favoring resource partitioning may result from local character displacement by competition and/or previous adaptations to geographically distinct environments.
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Laurence Gaume, Vincent Bazile, Maïlis Huguin, Vincent Bonhomme. Different pitcher shapes and trapping syndromes explain resource partitioning in Nepenthes species. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2016, 6 (5), pp.1378-1392. ⟨10.1002/ece3.1920⟩. ⟨hal-01289725⟩

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