Like all plants, pitcher plants need a source of nitrogen to grow well. Most plants get this from the soil, from nitrogen rich animal droppings which have been incorporated into the soil. Carnivorous plants can also obtain nitrogen from ‘prey’.
Some species pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes can also capture animal droppings as their pitchers are shaped like aerial toilet bowls complete with overhanging lid. The pitcher lids produce nutritious secretions on their undersides. Small mammals feeding on this, position themselves on the rim of the pitcher so their droppings are captured in the bowl part of the pitcher.
Scientists from various Australian universities studied pitcher plants in mountainous regions of Borneo to see how effective this method of gaining nitrogen. They found the Nepenthes pitcher plants were better at gaining nitrogen than non-carnivorous plants in the same environment, and the Nepenthes that collected animal droppings were more enriched with nitrogen than other Nepenthes species that captured small invertebrates but did not collect droppings.
The researchers concluded the “collection of mammal faeces clearly represents a highly effective strategy” for gaining nitrogen and this enabled the plants to grow in mountainous regions with poor soil where there were and fewer insects and other invertebrate prey.
Reference: Annals of Botany 28 October 2022 doi: 10.1093/aob/mcac134
Editorial Comment: Genesis tells us all animals ate plants in the original very good world, but what about plants, such as pitcher plants, that are often claimed to be designed to feed on animals?
Previous studies of pitcher plants have also shown they can obtain nutrients from animal droppings and urine, leaf litter and other discarded organic matter. This new study shows this is a very effective method for feeding these plants, and gives us a clue that in the original very good world ‘carnivorous’ plants were originally designed to recycle nutrients – an essential ecosystem service.
The unintentional capture and digestion of live insects is a consequence of a fallen world – especially after Noah’s Food.
JOHN MACKAY has some orchids which also unintentionally trap and dissolve insects.
Creation Research News 17 November 2022
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