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Evolution, Ecology, Development, And Genomics Of Carnivorous Plants

Skates, Laura [1], Cross, Adam [2], Stevens, Jason [3], Gebauer, Gerhard [4], Dixon, Kingsley [2].

How carnivorous are carnivorous plants? Applying stable isotope methodology to quantify reliance on prey.

The way in which carnivorous plants invert classical trophic ecology has long been a source of scientific curiosity. Whilst plants are typically defined by their ability to synthesise their own food (autotrophy) and are usually positioned at the base of trophic webs, many plants have developed alternative nutrient acquisition strategies in which they are fully or partially reliant upon other organisms for obtaining or supplementing their nutrition (heterotrophy). Carnivorous plants are unique amongst the heterotrophic plants in that they employ specially modified leaves, rather than roots, to obtain nutrients from other organisms. A carnivorous plant's position in a trophic web can be elucidated using natural abundance stable isotope techniques, whereby organisms are naturally enriched in heavier stable isotopes when compared to their diet. This technique was first applied to the study of carnivorous plants by Schulze et al (1991) with a variety of Drosera spp in southwest Australia. The scientific literature in this area of study has since been focused particularly on Drosera spp from the northern hemisphere, Roridula spp from the Cape of South Africa, and a variety of pitcher plants. These studies have helped to shape our current understanding of carnivorous plant ecology and evolution, however there are clearly a number of carnivorous plant species and habitats which have been largely overlooked and which could provide novel insights. My PhD research has focused particularly on the nutrition of carnivorous plants native to the Mediterranean southwest and tropical Kimberley regions of Western Australia, which together form a global centre of carnivorous plant diversity, hosting Drosera spp, Utricularia spp, Byblis spp, Cephalotus follicularis, and Aldrovanda vesiculosa. No other place on earth provides such a unique research opportunity to undertake comparative studies of carnivorous plant nutrition in an evolutionary and ecological context. Utilising natural abundance stable isotope techniques, we quantify prey-derived nutrition for a variety of co-occurring carnivorous plant species, across a broad range of habitats, in two contrasting climate types. By relating in situ prey-derived nutritional budgets to habitat, morphology, and evolutionary history, we explore the various factors which may have driven the evolution of the carnivorous syndrome, and examine implications for the conservation and management of wild carnivorous plant populations. Reference: Schulze, ED., Gebauer, G., Schulze, W. & Pate, JS. (1991): The utilisation of nitrogen from insect capture by different growth forms of Drosera from southwest Australia. Oecologia 87: 240-246

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1 - University of Western Australia, School of Biological Sciences, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA, 6009, Australia
2 - Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, WA, 6102, Australia
3 - Kings Park Science, Kattidj Close, Kings Park, WA, 6005, Australia
4 - University of Bayreuth, BayCEER Laboratory, Universit├Ątsstra├če 30, Bayreuth, 95447, Germany

Carnivorous Plants
heterotrophic plants
stable isotopes
Plant-Insect interaction

Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation
Session: SY1, Evolution, ecology, development, and genomics of carnivorous plants
Location: 107/Mayo Civic Center
Date: Monday, July 23rd, 2018
Time: 9:15 AM
Number: SY1004
Abstract ID:401
Candidate for Awards:None

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