Abstract Detail



Symbioses: Plant, Animal, and Microbe Interactions

Gilbert, Kadeem [1], Bittleston, Leonora [2], Tong, Wenfei [3], Pierce, Naomi [4].

Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) as an ecological filter.

Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) are carnivorous plants with modified leaves (pitchers) containing rainwater and digestive fluid for trapping and digesting prey; in natural populations this pitcher fluid hosts a diverse community of aquatic arthropods and microbes. With over 140 described species in the genus, there is vast interspecific diversity in pitcher morphology and physiology. For instance, pitchers can actively control the pH of their fluid, and some species produce viscoelastic fluid. As pitcher physiology influences the abiotic conditions of the pitcher fluid, such traits can mediate their interactions with symbionts and affect the resultant community composition of the pitcher microbiome. The goal of this study was to determine the extent to which Nepenthes species differentially regulate pitcher traits under common conditions, and the effects of interspecific trait differences on microbial community assembly. Sixteen species of Nepenthes were reared in a common garden experiment in the controlled environment of a glasshouse and treated with commonly-sourced pH 6.5 water. After a two-week acclimation period, we sampled fluids from 16 species and used 16S and 18S metabarcoding to analyze the bacterial and eukaryotic communities within our experimental plants. Different species differentially altered fluid pH, viscosity, and color. These trait differences, and pH in particular, allow pitcher species to act as ecological filters that can cultivate distinct microbial communities despite similar external conditions.


1 - Harvard University, Department Of Organismic And Evolutionary Biology, 26 Oxford Street, Museum Of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, MA, 02138, United States
2 - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 1-290, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA
3 - University of Alaska, Anchorage, Department of Biological Sciences, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK, 99508, USA
4 - Harvard University, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, 26 Oxford Street, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA

Keywords:
pitcher plants
carnivorous plants
biotic interactions
Microbes.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: 0013
Abstract ID:250
Candidate for Awards:None


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