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Do pitcher plants trap salamanders too?

Do pitcher plants trap salamanders too?

We know that pitcher plants are carnivorous as they have modified leaves called traps. These traps include the prey-trapping mechanism and feature a cavity comprising digestive liquid.

The traps are formed by the specialized leaves and these plants make the best use of their nectars to attract their prey.

Understanding Things about Pitcher Plants’ Chosen Preys

In previous studies, vertebrates (ranging from rats to frogs) have been confirmed to be the most significant prey of pitcher plants. If you see this image, you will notice how the plant has used its nectar to attract this frog. But recently it has been observed that these plants also eat rodents.

However, if the recent surveys and news are taken into consideration, salamanders aren’t rare prey that these carnivorous plants trap. The surveys so far suggest that salamanders provide rewarding bonuses to the plants.

They have high nutrients and are acidic. According to the record concerning the spotted population of salamanders, the figure has decreased. To give a fair idea here’s outlining the difference between lizards and salamanders.

Nepenthes rajah was first discovered in 1858 and still is the largest carnivorous pitcher plant species on record. (Image credit: Redfern Natural History Productions Ltd (more at www.redfernnaturalhistory.com))

In regards to their feeding behaviour, they also attract flying, foraging, and even crawling insects to the cavity formed by cupped leaves. They drown the insects, and eventually, the bodies get dissolved inside.

Understanding How Salamanders are Different from Lizards

Though both have similar shapes of their body alongside a few features, lizards are way different from salamanders. The latter is one type of amphibian with moist skin, and they stay in a damp habitat or near the water. 

Salamanders have a close resemblance with frogs, despite how uniquely different they are from each other. Lizards are the type of reptiles, and they feature dry skin having scales. They happen to be purely terrestrial.

Do pitcher plants trap salamanders?

Salamanders can end up in the pools to seek refuge. Alternatively, the plants are likely to attract them. The behaviour of pitcher plants to trap salamanders does not have previous confirmation. However, as the research world got advanced, scientists noticed the behaviour.

Why do pitcher plants like salamanders?

Carnivorous plants in Ontario’s Algonquin Park don’t eat just bugs. This Canadian pitcher plant species also snack on young salamanders. Scientists think this new behaviour is seen because of the reduction in nutrients in the food that is available to the pitcher plants in the area. 

Researchers at the Canada’s University of Guelph observed that baby salamanders often get attracted to the pitcher plants offering and wander off into the pits and get stuck there. As the water in the pit is less, it takes the heat of the sun easily and the salamanders face a slow death over the next 3- 10 days. Teskey Baldwin and Moldowan believe this one last snack is usually to store the nutrients for the next season and hence becomes an important meal for the pitcher plant. 

Studies so far got examined these plants in summer and spring. But little did the surveyors know that salamanders seem to become the victim to these plants in early fall or late spring. This period is when they undergo metamorphosis. This is the time when they get transitioned to a terrestrial habitat from an aquatic one.

They act as a seasonal component to the predation of pitcher plants. Winter is the time when insects become scarce for these plants. This is when it can become a rewarding benefit for pitcher plants to feast on baby salamanders.

Before Concluding

But there’s a drawback that these plants might experience. Preying on large salamanders can have dangerous impacts on the plants. When the larger ones get trapped, it might rot and could potentially kill the plants.

“Pitcher plants grow in bogs, where the soil has few nutrients. Scientists think the plants evolved to eat insects, spiders — and salamanders — to gain necessary nutrients, such as nitrogen.” – P. D. MOLDOWAN

Though scientists are yet to understand fully why the bug-eating plants have upgraded to salamander-eating, it is sure that they are evolving quickly. It would be interesting to see how salamanders would learn to outwit the plants or would succumb to the inviting pit easily. 

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