Pitcher Plant Symbiosis

The carnivorous plant Nepenthes rajah has developed a mutualistic relationship with mountain treeshrews.

The treeshrews perch themselves on the rim of the trap and eat the nectar produced on the lid. As it feeds, it defecates into the basin.

Pitcher plants get nutrients from digesting trapped insects, and in this case shrew droppings. This is an adaptation to the nutrient poor soils which they grow in.

Chi’en Lee on Wikipedia Commons

Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes fusca shown)

The genus Nepenthes grows in nutrient poor tropical soils and has developed carnivory to supplement its nutrient requirements. Inside the ‘pitcher’ is a small pool of digestive fluids in which small insects drown and are digested. The colorful lip (or peristome) attracts prey, which lose footing on its slippery surface and fall into the pitcher fluid.

Image: GP Con