, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 8-13

Contrasting effects of supplementary feeding of insects or mineral nutrients on the growth and nitrogen and phosphorous economy of pygmy species of Drosera

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Summary

Growth responses and accumulation of N and P were studied in two pygmy south-west Australian species of Drosera following supplementary feeding of arthropods (collembolans, Hypogastrura vernalis and fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster) and/or a balanced mineral nutrient supplement (N as nitrate) via the roots. One feeding experiment used glasshouse-raised germlings from vegetative propagules (gemmae) of the perennial Drosera closterostigma, the other three (two on D. closterostigma and one on the annual D. glanduligera) involved natural populations engaging in natural captures of indigenous prey. All experiments recorded highly significant increases in plant dry matter, N and P (all plant age groups) and in reproductive performance (adult plants only) from artificial feeding of arthropods, but no apparent benefits from minerals alone or additive effects of minerals above that due to insects. Unresponsiveness to mineral nutrients was suggested to relate to inability of the species to use nitrate, while up to three-fold growth and nutrient uptake response to insects indicated that growth of natural populations might be severely limited by inadequate catches of prey. It is concluded that the highly nutrient-poor conditions typical of the habitat of pygmy species of Drosera may have promoted marked specialization towards carnivory and an attendant decline in ability to utilize soil-derived sources of nutrients.