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Ellison Abstract- 2003 Ellison et al

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Ellison, A. M., N. J. Gotelli, J. S. Brewer, L. Cochran-Stafira, J. Kneitel, T. E. Miller, A. S. Worley, and R. Zamora. 2003. The evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants. Advances in Ecological Research 33: 1-74.


This review synthesizes published data and new results concerning the evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants. These diverse taxa occur in many angiosperm clades, but are united by a common ecological "niche" – botanical carnivory. Aspects of their life-history, including developmental preformation and rapid responses to nutrient additions, make some carnivorous plants well-suited for addressing basic questions in population biology, including cost-benefit analysis of resource use and allocation, demographic trends, and population forecasting. These cost-benefit analyses also suggest ways to test hypotheses regarding coexistence of plant species in resource-limited environments. Most carnivorous plants are pollinated by insects, and the conflict between using insects as pollination vectors and as prey provides new insights into ecological and evolutionary dynamics of plant-pollinator assemblages. A subset of the carnivorous plants, the pitcher plants, host distinctive communities of invertebrates in their modified leaves. These "inquiline" communities have been developed as model systems for experimental studies of interspecific competition, food-web dynamics, metapopulations and metacommunities, and species co-occurrence patterns and assembly rules. The rapid generation times of the inquilines allows for the explicit incorporation of evolutionary dynamics into experimental studies of ecological communities. These research foci suggest that carnivorous plants are model systems for a broad range of basic questions in evolutionary ecology. Aspects of their autecology and synecology permit investigations of fundamental ecological processes across the full range of spatial, temporal, and biological organization.

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