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Pitcher plants in the presses and on the road

September 1, 2009
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Recent Harvard Forest post-doc Jim Karagatzides has published two papers based on his research with Harvard Forest Senior Sarcenia with Quaker MothEcologist Aaron Ellison. In the first, using stable isotope tracers in the field, Jim showed that Sarracenia purpurea can acquire nitrogen directly from amino acids, bypassing the inorganic nitrogen cycle on which most plants depend for their primary nutrient. In the second, Jim used greenhouse-grown plants and a micro-bomb calorimeter to demonstrate that carnivorous plant traps are less "costly" for plants to produce than was expected by the classical cost-benefit model for the evolution of botanical carnivory. Rather than being "fast and juicy", carnivorous plant traps are at the "slow and tough" end of the universal spectrum of leaf traits.

Aaron's research on pitcher plants as model systems for studying food web dynamics and impacts of nitrogen deposition on ecosystems was profiled in the Science section of Wired magazine.

And pitcher-plants cut a wide swath through the August ESA meetings, where graduate student Sydne Record, Schoolyard LTER participant and 5th-grade teacher extraordinaire Katie Bennett, and new Outreach & Development Manager Clarisse Hart each presented well-attended posters on their research with these most excellent plants.

Citations, papers, web-links:

Karagatzides, J. D., J. L. Butler, and A. M. Ellison. 2009. The pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea can directly acquire organic nitrogen and short-circuit the inorganic nitrogen cycle. PLoS One 4: e6164.

Karagatzides, J. D., and A. M. Ellison. 2009. Construction costs, payback times and the leaf economics of carnivorous plants. American Journal of Botany 96: 1612-1619.

Keim, B. 2009. In the bowels of carnivorous plants, a tiny model of the world. Wired.

ESA posters:

Bennet, K. F., and A. M. Ellison. 2009. Nectar, not color, may lure insects to their death.

Hart, C., J. Mejia, N. J. Gotelli, and A. M. Ellison. 2009. Competition between spiders and pitcher plants? Prey availability and intraguild interactions in bogs.

Record, S., A. M. Ellison, and N. J. Gotelli. 2009. The influence of informed versus uninformed priors on forecasts of growth rates and extinction risks of a New England population of northern pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea L.). 

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