26 Aug

I just read this cool article about a pitcher plant in Borneo that survives not only on insects but on the poo of shrews. It has evolved into a toilet! Darwin would be so proud. Here is a picture with the acompanying article.

Pitcher plants are carnivorous and usually eat insects for nutrients and nitrogen. But in the highlands of Borneo there are not enough for it to survive on insects alone, so the pitcher plant evolved into a toilet plant, complete with standing lid that serves an unusual purpose.

Dr. Jonathan Moran, Assistant Professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Road University in Victoria, described it to Bob McDonald of Quirks and Quarks, a Canadian science radio show. It is really quite amazing.

The plant is big, almost the size of a football, The lid is covered in nectar, which attracts the tree shrew with a yummy snack; the bowl is shaped precisely to catch the shrew’s poop. There is even some thought that the nectar might have laxative properties, because it certainly collects a lot of the stuff, which provides needed nitrogen for the plant.

McDonald calls it “an unusual example of mutualization.” The shrew is common at all altitudes, but the adapted plant is found only at the high altitudes, so all of the adaptation has been by the plant.

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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in nature, weird news


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