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Concept: Sarracenia


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


Comparative phylogeographic investigations have identified congruent phylogeographic breaks in co-distributed species in nearly every region of the world. The qualitative assessments of phylogeographic patterns traditionally used to identify such breaks, however, are limited because they rely on identifying monophyletic groups across species and do not account for coalescent stochasticity. Only long-standing phylogeographic breaks are likely to be obvious; many species could have had a concerted response to more recent landscape events, yet possess subtle signs of phylogeographic congruence because ancestral polymorphism has not completely sorted. Here we introduce Phylogeographic Concordance Factors (PCFs), a novel method for quantifying phylogeographic congruence across species. We apply this method to the Sarracenia alata pitcher plant system, a carnivorous plant with a diverse array of commensal organisms. We explore whether a group of ecologically associated arthropods have co-diversified with the host pitcher plant, and identify if there is a positive correlation between ecological interaction and PCFs. Results demonstrate that multiple arthropods share congruent phylogeographic breaks with S. alata, and provide evidence that the level of ecological association can be used to predict the degree of similarity in the phylogeographic pattern. This study outlines an approach for quantifying phylogeographic congruence, a central concept in biogeographic research. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Biology, Plant, Ecology, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Biogeography, Commensalism, Sarracenia


Sarraceniaceae is a New World carnivorous plant family comprising three genera: Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, and Sarracenia. The plants occur in nutrient-poor environments and have developed insectivorous capability in order to supplement their nutrient uptake. Sarracenia flava contains the alkaloid coniine, otherwise only found in Conium maculatum, in which its biosynthesis has been studied, and several Aloe species. Its ecological role and biosynthetic origin in S. flava is speculative. The aim of the current research was to investigate the occurrence of coniine in Sarracenia and Darlingtonia and to identify common constituents of both genera, unique compounds for individual variants and floral scent chemicals. In this comprehensive metabolic profiling study, we looked for compound patterns that are associated with the taxonomy of Sarracenia species. In total, 57 different Sarracenia and D. californica accessions were used for metabolite content screening by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The resulting high-dimensional data were studied using a data mining approach. The two genera are characterized by a large number of metabolites and huge chemical diversity between different species. By applying feature selection for clustering and by integrating new biochemical data with existing phylogenetic data, we were able to demonstrate that the chemical composition of the species can be explained by their known classification. Although transcriptome analysis did not reveal a candidate gene for coniine biosynthesis, the use of a sensitive selected ion monitoring method enabled the detection of coniine in eight Sarracenia species, showing that it is more widespread in this genus than previously believed.

Concepts: Metabolism, Species, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia, Sarraceniaceae, Heliamphora, Coniine


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


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


The North American carnivorous pitcher plant genus Sarracenia (Sarraceniaceae) is a relatively young clade (<3 million years ago) displaying a wide range of morphological diversity in complex trapping structures. This recently radiated group is a promising system to examine the structural evolution and diversification of carnivorous plants; however, little is known regarding evolutionary relationships within the genus. Previous attempts at resolving the phylogeny have been unsuccessful, most likely due to few parsimony-informative sites compounded by incomplete lineage sorting. Here, we applied a target enrichment approach using multiple accessions to assess the relationships of Sarracenia species. This resulted in 199 nuclear genes from 75 accessions covering the putative 8-11 species and 8 subspecies/varieties. In addition, we recovered 42kb of plastome sequence from each accession to estimate a cpDNA-derived phylogeny. Unsurprisingly, the cpDNA had few parsimony-informative sites (0.5%) and provided little information on species relationships. In contrast, use of the targeted nuclear loci in concatenation and coalescent frameworks elucidated many relationships within Sarracenia even with high heterogeneity among gene trees. Results were largely consistent for both concatenation and coalescent approaches. The only major disagreement was with the placement of the purpurea complex. Moreover, results suggest an Appalachian massif biogeographic origin of the genus. Overall, this study highlights the utility of target enrichment using multiple accessions to resolve relationships in recently radiated taxa.

Concepts: Biology, Species, Plant, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia


Abstract Classic niche theory predicts that competing species will evolve to use different resources and interact less, whereas recent niche-converge ideas predict that species evolve to use similar resources and interact more. Most data supporting niche evolution are based on observations of contemporary niche use, whereas experimental support is quite sparse. We followed the evolution of four species of Protozoa during succession in the water-filled leaves of the pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, and found that evolution in multispecies systems follows a surprising pattern. Over several hundred generations, weak competitors evolved to be stronger, while strong competitors evolved to become weaker, which does not conform to expectations of either niche divergence or convergence. Evolution in this system appears to occur in response to characteristics of a suite of several competitors in the community, rather than pairwise interactions. Ecologists may need to rethink the roles of competition and evolution in structuring communities.

Concepts: Competition, Plant, Ecology, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia, Sarraceniaceae