Nepenthes pudica uses underground pitchers to make delicious ant soup.
As far as botanical animals go, carnivorous pitcher plants are pretty badass (some of them devour salamanders, so there), and they just got a whole lot more metal as scientists have for the first time discovered a nepenthes species that gorges underground. The underground predator, which captures ants and other insects in pitchers that develop in earth holes, was discovered in North Kalimantan, Indonesia.
The team that visited the montane rainforest of North Kalimantan in 2012 has described the first-of-its-kind species in PhytoKeys and given it the scientific name Nepenthes pudica. They found that N. pudica was using a trapping technique that had never before been observed in carnivorous plants under the earth’s surface.
Although the leafy meat-eaters are not unknown for trapping living animals beneath, other plants utilize a variety of traps, from the sucking utricles of Utricularia to the sticky leaves of Philcoxia and the lobster-pot method of Genlisea. As an alternative, N. pudica produces fully fledged pitcher traps.
The traps, which mostly only develop on the subterranean basal shoots of N. pudica, are around 7 to 11 centimeters high and 3-5.5 cm broad. A tiny lunch for a person, but there is enough room to prepare some ant beetle soup.
The carnivore seems to prefer trees with caverns created by branch roots that are covered in moss, giving them plenty of room to spread their predatory pitchers. N. pudica will also produce pitchers in soil or beneath moss cushions if there isn’t enough room for them.
Other Nepenthes species in the region were examined, and it was found that N. pudica was the only one with subterranean pitcher sprouting. This is intriguing since it shows that the characteristic isn’t only a product of the plant’s surroundings but rather that this particular species may have developed the feature as an adaptive habit.
The study’s authors said that there were no barriers stopping the subterranean shoots of N. pudica from climbing upward. “Neither did they exhibit symptoms of advancing toward light, even when just hidden behind a delicate moss cushion,” the author continued.
Beyond tempting possibilities for a movie sequel The researchers claim that Little Shop of Horrors: This Time It’s Earthy, the finding of an unique feeding method among carnivorous plants in Borneo, underlines the region’s scientific significance and the need to safeguard it.
In the Mentarang Hulu area of North Kalimantan, where it grows on ridgetops at a height of 1100-1300 [meters], they said, “Nepenthes pudica is known only from a few nearby sites. Its finding highlights the Borneo rainforest’s natural riches and the need to protect this crucial ecosystem with its vast and untapped biodiversity.