Research led by PhD student Patrick Moldowan (Rollinson Lab) and Professor Alex Smith (Guelph U.) reveals that pitcher plants aren't strictly insectivorous, they regularly devour vertebrate prey.
Pitcher plants are common around bogs and leverage insect prey to satisfy nitrogen demand, but field surveys over two fall seasons revealed that 20% of pitcher plants had trapped at least one juvenile yellow-spotted salamander.
The discovery of regular vertebrate prey in pitcher plants leads to many questions:
To what extent does a salamander capture benefit a pitcher plant, or does it harm the plant?
Do the salamanders starve to death in the plant, do they overheat as the pitchers warm in the sun, or are they killed by something in the fluid?
Moldowan will seek answers to these question over the next two field seasons.