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New Harvard Forest Publication: Carnivorous Plant Methods of Attracting Prey

June 1, 2009
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Ant in pitcher plant

Katie Bennett, a fifth-grade teacher at Ashburnham's J.R.Briggs Elementary School, a long-time participant in the Harvard Forest Schoolyard LTER Program and an NSF Research Experience for Teachers (RET) collaborator on ant and pitcher-plant research, has published her first paper in Biology Letters, the rapid communication journal of the Royal Society of London. In this paper, Katie, along with Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison, used a creative field experiment to distinguish between competing hypotheses about how carnivorous pitcher plants attract prey. Their work shows clearly that prey are attracted to pitcher plants by nectar, not color, settling a long-standing debate about mechanisms underlying prey capture by pitcher plants. This research was supported by an NSF RET supplement award to Katie Bennett, who has also received a second RET supplement to continue her research on pitcher plants this summer.

Bennett, K. F., and A. M. Ellison. 2009. Nectar, not colour, may lure insects to their death. Biology Letters. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0161 

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