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University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Cambridge Philosophical Society > The Inaugural Henslow Fellow Lectures - Turning the tables in plant-animal interactions: the tricks and traps of insect-eating pitcher plants
The Inaugural Henslow Fellow Lectures - Turning the tables in plant-animal interactions: the tricks and traps of insect-eating pitcher plants
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The first of two half-hour lectures by the Society's Henslow Fellows
Interactions between plants and animals have shaped all ecosystems. The evolutionary arms race between herbivores and plants has led to astounding adaptations on both sides. Some plants have even managed to “turn the tables” and prey upon animals for food. The leaves of the Asian pitcher plant (Nepenthes) form elaborate pitfall traps that rely on specialised slippery surfaces to capture (mostly) arthropods. The prey drowns in the fluid-filled bottom of the trap and gets digested by the plant’s enzymes. This basic principle has been modified by evolution in numerous ways, and a diversity of trapping mechanisms and nutrient acquisition strategies can be found across the genus Nepenthes. On the other hand, convergent evolution has led to a strikingly similar trap design in the unrelated American pitcher plants (Sarraceniaceae). In my lecture, I will introduce you to the often bizarre trapping mechanisms of these fascinating plants, and give you some insight in the joys and challenges of conducting ecological and biomechanical experiments in a tropical field environment.
This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.
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