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New Harvard Forest Publication: Newts As Carnivorous Plant Prey

Sunday, May 1, 2005
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The northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) receives some of its nutrients from the decomposition of prey that fall into its Northeastern Naturalist Coverpitcher-shaped leaves. The majority of prey consists of ants, beetles, spiders, and slugs, and in rare cases, frogs and lizards. Here we report on the unusual occurrence of 22 Red-spotted Newt larvae (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens) trapped within northern pitcher plants during a nutrient manipulation experiment in a Massachusetts bog in the summer of 2003. Newts were found among the larger of our experimental plants, but were not associated with any particular nutrient-addition treatment. High nitrogen levels in newts could contribute significantly to the nutrient budget of northern pitcher plants. Furthermore, this observation suggests that the trapping of amphibian prey by northern pitcher plants might not be as rare an event as previously believed. 

Red-spotted Newts: An Unusual Nutrient Source for Northern Pitcher Plants. Jessica L. Butler, Daniel Z. Atwater, and Aaron M. Ellison, Northeastern Naturalist 12:1 pp. 1–10.

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