Mentors: Richard Wong, Katrina DeWitt, Justin Wright, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Sarracenia purpurea is a species of carnivorous plant with pitcher-like structures that collect rainwater. Inside the pitchers lives an inquiline micro-community of organisms that help break down prey that lands in the pitchers, providing the plant with nutrients. S. purpurea ranges from southeast U.S. to Canada, but it is unknown how the micro-community and its importance for the plant’s nutrient uptake varies across latitudes. We hypothesized that S. purpurea from lower latitudes will rely more on digestive enzymes for nutrient uptake, while S. purpurea from higher latitudes will rely more on the micro-community. We will take fluid and leaf samples from plants across a latitudinal gradient. We will study enzyme concentrations, the organismal composition of the micro-communities, and perform a nitrogen analysis to study nutrient uptake. We expect that the plants at lower latitudes will have a higher enzyme concentration, a more diverse inquiline community, and a higher degree of nutrient uptake than plants further north. The plants at higher latitudes will likely have a lower enzyme concentration and a less extensive inquiline community, but they will largely rely on this community for acquiring nutrients. Our findings can be applied to similar aquatic systems that exist on a macro scale.