Carnivorous plants of the genus Nepenthes have evolved a striking diversity of pitcher traps that rely on specialized slippery surfaces for prey capture. With a comparative study of trap morphology, we show that Nepenthes pitcher plants have evolved specific adaptations for the use of either one of two distinct trapping mechanisms: slippery wax crystals on the inner pitcher wall and 'insect aquaplaning' on the wet upper rim (peristome). Species without wax crystals had wider peristomes with a longer inward slope. Ancestral state reconstructions identified wax crystal layers and narrow, symmetrical peristomes as ancestral, indicating that wax crystals have been reduced or lost multiple times independently. Our results complement recent reports of nutrient source specializations in Nepenthes and suggest that these specializations may have driven speciation and rapid diversification in this genus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics