Microbiomes in pitcher plants!

This week, I enjoyed listening to everyone as they presented and communicated their projects. One chalk talk that caught my interest was delivered by Ali and is titled “life in a pitcher.” This talk was about carnivorous pitcher plants and their relationship with the microorganisms that live in the water that accumulates in the plants. These organisms often take a bite out of the animals that land in the pitcher plant, but to my understanding they leave some leftovers for the plant. The plant also secretes digestive enzymes to help break down the animals. I was specifically intrigued by one of Ali’s research questions. I believe it was along the lines of “how does a pitcher plant’s latitudinal placement affect its enzyme secretion? The hypothesis is that the higher the latitude, the more energy the plants would have to conserve to stay alive. This makes sense because there is less sunlight available in higher latitudes compared to lower or mid-latitudes. Therefore, pitcher plants may decrease or completely stop secreting digestive enzymes to conserve energy. This would increase their dependency on microorganisms to break food down, even if those organisms take some food for themselves. 

 

I personally find this intriguing because the study of microbiomes and their relationships with the host is an exciting, emerging field. I think that it may be true that higher latitude pitcher plants may secrete less enzymes to conserve energy, but I wonder if having microorganisms that take some of their food is actually beneficial for them or if it’s a nuisance. Perhaps they prefer to conserve energy at higher latitudes by some other means and instead secrete more digestive enzymes. Perhaps the presence of these microorganisms is negligible for pitcher plants. Whatever the case is, I think it’s a very interesting topic to look into as it increases our understanding of microbiome-host relations. 

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