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Concept: Sarracenia purpurea


Trade-offs among species' ecological interactions is a pervasive explanation for species coexistence. The traits associated with trade-offs are typically measured to mechanistically explain species coexistence at a single spatial scale. However, species potentially interact at multiple scales and this may be reflected in the traits among coexisting species. I quantified species' ecological traits associated with the trade-offs expected at both local (competitive ability and predator tolerance) and regional (competitive ability and colonization rate) community scales. The most common species (four protozoa and a rotifer) from the middle trophic level of a pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) inquiline community were used to link species traits to previously observed patterns of species diversity and abundance. Traits associated with trade-offs (competitive ability, predator tolerance, and colonization rate) and other ecological traits (size, growth rate, and carrying capacity) were measured for each of the focal species. Traits were correlated with one another with a negative relationship indicative of a trade-off. Protozoan and rotifer species exhibited a negative relationship between competitive ability and predator tolerance, indicative of coexistence at the local community scale. There was no relationship between competitive ability and colonization rate. Size, growth rate, and carrying capacity were correlated with each other and the trade-off traits: Size was related to both competitive ability and predator tolerance, but growth rate and carrying capacity were correlated with predator tolerance. When partial correlations were conducted controlling for size, growth rate and carrying capacity, the trade-offs largely disappeared. These results imply that body size is the trait that provides the basis for ecological interactions and trade-offs. Altogether, this study showed that the examination of species' traits in the context of coexistence at different scales can contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying community structure.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Pitcher plant, Trophic level, Trophic dynamics, Carrying capacity, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia


BACKGROUND: The purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea L., is a widely distributed species in North America with a history of use as both a marketed pain therapy and a traditional medicine in many aboriginal communities. Among the Cree of Eeyou Istchee in northern Quebec, the plant is employed to treat symptoms of diabetes and the leaf extract demonstrates multiple anti-diabetic activities including cytoprotection in an in vitro model of diabetic neuropathy. The current study aimed to further investigate this activity by identifying the plant parts and secondary metabolites that contribute to these cytoprotective effects. METHODS: Ethanolic extracts of S. purpurea leaves and roots were separately administered to PC12 cells exposed to glucose toxicity with subsequent assessment by two cell viability assays. Assay-guided fractionation of the active extract and fractions was then conducted to identify active principles. Using high pressure liquid chromatography together with mass spectrometry, the presence of identified actives in both leaf and root extracts were determined. RESULTS: The leaf extract, but not that of the root, prevented glucose-mediated cell loss in a concentration-dependent manner. Several fractions elicited protective effects, indicative of multiple active metabolites, and, following subfractionation of the polar fraction, hyperoside (quercetin-3-O-galactoside) and morroniside were isolated as active constituents. Phytochemical analysis confirmed the presence of hyperoside in the leaf but not root extract and, although morroniside was detected in both organs, its concentration was seven times higher in the leaf. CONCLUSION: Our results not only support further study into the therapeutic potential and safety of S. purpurea as an alternative and complementary treatment for diabetic complications associated with glucose toxicity but also identify active principles that can be used for purposes of standardization and quality control.

Concepts: Nutrition, Diabetes mellitus, Cell culture, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia, Sarraceniaceae, Sarracenia rosea


Slow changes in underlying state variables can lead to “tipping points,” rapid transitions between alternative states (“regime shifts”) in a wide range of complex systems. Tipping points and regime shifts routinely are documented retrospectively in long time series of observational data. Experimental induction of tipping points and regime shifts is rare, but could lead to new methods for detecting impending tipping points and forestalling regime shifts. By using controlled additions of detrital organic matter (dried, ground arthropod prey), we experimentally induced a shift from aerobic to anaerobic states in a miniature aquatic ecosystem: the self-contained pools that form in leaves of the carnivorous northern pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea. In unfed controls, the concentration of dissolved oxygen ([O2]) in all replicates exhibited regular diurnal cycles associated with daytime photosynthesis and nocturnal plant respiration. In low prey-addition treatments, the regular diurnal cycles of [O2] were disrupted, but a regime shift was not detected. In high prey-addition treatments, the variance of the [O2] time series increased until the system tipped from an aerobic to an anaerobic state. In these treatments, replicate [O2] time series predictably crossed a tipping point at ∼45 h as [O2] was decoupled from diurnal cycles of photosynthesis and respiration. Increasing organic-matter loading led to predictable changes in [O2] dynamics, with high loading consistently driving the system past a well-defined tipping point. The Sarracenia microecosystem functions as a tractable experimental system in which to explore the forecasting and management of tipping points and alternative regimes.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Cellular respiration, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia, Sarraceniaceae


Carnivory in pitcher plants generally involves digestion of prey, by the plant itself, by symbionts, or both. While symbionts appear to be important in the digestion of prey in Sarracenia purpurea, the importance of pitcher-derived enzymes is less well documented. Our goal was to reduce microbial numbers in pitcher fluid in order to measure the acid phosphatase activity attributable to the pitchers themselves. Preliminary experiments indicated that various antibiotics were minimally effective at reducing microbial populations and that antibiotic-resistant microbes were easily cultured from pitcher fluid. Consequently, we measured the abundance of culturable microbes in every sample taken for the measurement of acid phosphatase activity. Pitchers fed with one sterilized ant had higher levels of acid phosphatase activity than unfed pitchers. Older pitchers were more responsive to feeding than young pitchers. Pitchers with high levels of microbes (on Day 5) had higher acid phosphatase activity than pitchers with low levels of microbes. However, fed pitchers were not more likely to have higher microbe levels and microbe levels were not related to pitcher age. When fluid samples from inside the pitcher were compared to appropriate controls incubated outside the pitcher, acid phosphatase activity was higher inside the pitcher. Results from the feeding experiments are consistent with a primary role of microbes in the digestion of prey in pitchers of S. purpurea. However, the relationship between pitcher age and enzyme activity is not a function of microbes in the pitcher fluid and may depend on enzymes produced by the plant. Our methods would not detect microbes embedded on the inner surface of the pitcher; and if they survived the alcohol rinse and antibiotics, we cannot rule out microbes as the source of the relationship between pitcher age and acid phosphatase activity.

Concepts: Bacteria, Enzyme, Antibiotic resistance, Microorganism, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea


A key question in biology is how the endless diversity of forms found in nature evolved. Understanding the cellular basis of this diversity has been aided by advances in non-model experimental systems, quantitative image analysis tools, and modeling approaches. Recent work in plants highlights the importance of cell wall and cuticle modifications for the emergence of diverse forms and functions. For example, explosive seed dispersal in Cardamine hirsuta depends on the asymmetric localization of lignified cell wall thickenings in the fruit valve. Similarly, the iridescence of Hibiscus trionum petals relies on regular striations formed by cuticular folds. Moreover, NAC transcription factors regulate the differentiation of lignified xylem vessels but also the water-conducting cells of moss that lack a lignified secondary cell wall, pointing to the origin of vascular systems. Other novel forms are associated with modified cell growth patterns, including oriented cell expansion or division, found in the long petal spurs of Aquilegia flowers, and the Sarracenia purpurea pitcher leaf, respectively. Another good example is the regulation of dissected leaf shape in C. hirsuta via local growth repression, controlled by the REDUCED COMPLEXITY HD-ZIP class I transcription factor. These studies in non-model species often reveal as much about fundamental processes of development as they do about the evolution of form.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Gene expression, Archaea, Bacteria, Cell wall, Plant morphology, Sarracenia purpurea


Several fast-intermediate growing, acid-fast, scotochromogenic bacteria were isolated from Sarracenia purpurea pitcher waters in Minnesota sphagnum peat bogs. Two strains (DL734T and DL739T) were among these isolates. Based upon 16S rRNA sequences, the phylogenetic positions of both strains is in the genus Mycobacterium with no obvious relation to any characterized type strains of mycobacteria. Phenotypic characterization revealed neither strain was similar to the type strains of known species of the genus Mycobacterium in the collective properties of growth, pigmentation, or fatty acid composition. Strain DL734T grew between 28°C to 32°C, was positive for 3-day arylsulfatase production, and was negative for Tween 80 hydrolysis, urease, and nitrate reduction. Strain DL739T grew between 28°C to 37°C, is positive for Tween 80 hydrolysis, urea and nitrate reduction, and 3-day arylsulfatase production. Both strains are catalase-negative while only DL739T grew with 5% NaCl. Fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles were unique for each strain. DL739T shows an ability to survive 8°C with little to no cellular replication and is thus considered to be psychrotolerant. Therefore, strains DL734T and DL739T represent two novel species of the genus Mycobacterium with the proposed names Mycobacterium sarraceniae sp. nov. and Mycobacterium helvum sp. nov., respectively. The type strains are DL734T (=JCM 30395 T =NCCB 100519T) and DL739T (=JCM 30396 T =NCCB 100520T), respectively.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Carboxylic acid, Ester, Hydrolysis, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia


Climate change research has demonstrated that changing temperatures will have an effect on community-level dynamics by altering species' survival rates, shifting species' distributions, and ultimately, creating mismatches in community interactions. However, most of this work has focused on increasing temperature, and still little is known about how the variation in temperature extremes will affect community dynamics. We used the model aquatic community held within the leaves of the carnivorous plant, Sarracenia purpurea, to test how food-web dynamics will be affected by high temperature variation. We tested the community response of the first (bacterial density), second (protist diversity and composition), and third trophic level (predator mortality), and measured community respiration. We collected early and late successional stage inquiline communities from S. purpurea from two North American and two European sites with similar average July temperature. We then created a common garden experiment in which replicates of these communities underwent either high or normal daily temperature variation, with the average temperature equal among treatments. We found an impact of temperature variation on the first two, but not on the third trophic level. For bacteria in the high variation treatment, density experienced an initial boost in growth but then decreased quickly through time. For protists in the high variation treatment, alpha-diversity decreased faster than in the normal variation treatment, beta-diversity increased only in the European sites, and protist community composition tended to diverge more in the late successional stage. The mortality of the predatory mosquito larvae was unaffected by temperature variation. Community respiration was lower in the high variation treatment, indicating a lower ecosystem functioning. Our results highlight clear impacts of temperature variation. A more mechanistic understanding of the effects that temperature, and especially temperature variation, will have on community dynamics is still greatly needed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Bacteria, Ecology, Temperature, Affect, Microorganism, Food chain, Copyright, Sarracenia purpurea


The purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, is a medicinal plant used by the Canadian First Nations to treat a wide variety of illnesses. The Mi'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) peoples of Eastern Canada have traditionally used infusions of S. purpurea for the treatment of tuberculosis-like symptoms. Previous investigations have shown methanolic extracts of S. purpurea to possess antimycobacterial activity.

Concepts: Canada, Pitcher plant, Ontario, Quebec, First Nations, Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Sarracenia purpurea, Maliseet


Sea-level rise and frequent intense hurricanes associated with climate change will result in recurrent flooding of inland systems such as Gulf Coastal pitcher plant bogs by storm surges. These surges can transport salt water and sediment to freshwater bogs, greatly affecting their biological integrity. Purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia rosea) are Gulf Coast pitcher plant bog inhabitants that could be at a disadvantage under this scenario because their pitcher morphology may leave them prone to collection of saline water and sediment after a surge. We investigated the effects of storm surge water salinity and sediment type on S. rosea vitality, plant community structure, and bog soil-water conductivity. Plots (containing ≥1 ramet of S. rosea) were experimentally flooded with fresh or saline water crossed with one of three sediment types (local, foreign, or no sediment). There were no treatment effects on soil-water conductivity; nevertheless, direct exposure to saline water resulted in significantly lower S. rosea cover until the following season when a prescribed fire and regional drought contributed to the decline of all the S. rosea to near zero percent cover. There were also significant differences in plant community structure between treatments over time, reflecting how numerous species increased in abundance and a few species decreased in abundance. However, in contrast to S. rosea, most of the other species in the community appeared resilient to the effects of storm surge. Thus, although the community may be somewhat affected by storm surge, those few species that are particularly sensitive to the storm surge disturbance will likely drop out of the community and be replaced by more resilient species. Depending on the longevity of these biological legacies, Gulf Coastal pitcher plant bogs may be incapable of fully recovering if they become exposed to storm surge more frequently due to climate change.

Concepts: Seawater, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Tropical cyclone, Flood, Storm surge, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia


A total of 36,495 larvae consisting of 45 species from 11 genera were collected from 7,189 sites from southern New Jersey, Burlington County between the months of March and October, 2001-2014. Density and seasonal distribution were determined among natural and artificial habitat. The most dominant species collected from natural habitat was Aedes vexans (Meigen) followed by Ochlerotatus canadensis canadensis (Theobald), Culex restuans Theobald, Culex pipiens L., and Culex territans Walker. The most dominant species collected from artificial habitat was Aedes albopictus (Skuse) followed by Ochlerotatus japonicus japonicus (Theobald), Cx. restuans, Cx. pipiens, and Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Say). Cx. restuans and Cx. pipiens were the only species categorized as dominant among both natural and artificial habitat and comprised greater than half the total density. Sympatry was common among dominant species from artificial habitat where a significant percentage of the total collection contained multiple species. The most common types of natural habitats were forested depressions and stream flood plains whereas rimless vehicle tires and various plastic containers were the most common artificial habitats. The pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea L. was the only habitat exclusive to one species.

Concepts: Habitat, Mosquito, Aedes, Culicidae, New Jersey, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia, Burlington County, New Jersey