, Volume 106, Issue 3, pp 370–375 | Cite as

Nitrogen uptake from prey and substrate as affected by prey capture level and plant reproductive status in four carnivorous plant species

  • H. M. Hanslin
  • P. S. Karlsson
Plant Animal Interactions


Uptake of nitrogen from prey and substrate and partitioning of prey-derived nitrogen were studied in the carnivorous plant species Pinguicula alpina, P. villosa, P. vulgaris and Drosera rotundifolia in a subarctic environment. Efficiency in nitrogen uptake from prey was evaluated by tracing 15N from 15N-enriched Drosophila flies fed to the plants. The in situ uptake efficiency differed somewhat between species and ranged from 29 to 41% of prey N. This efficiency was not affected by different feeding levels or plant reproductive status (flowering or non-flowering). A test of the amount of N absorbed from prey caught on flower stalks of Pinguicula villosa and P. vulgaris showed that both species took up little of what was available in prey (2.5% or less). The uptake efficiency found in greenhouse grown plants was higher than in plants in situ (40–50% vs. 30–40% respectively). This could probably best be explained by the absence of rain and a higher temperature in the greenhouse. The prey-derived 15N was traced to reproductive organs and winter buds. Non-flowering individuals allocated 58–97% of the N derived from prey to their winter buds. Flowering individuals allocated 17–43% of the N income from prey to reproduction, while 34–71% were allocated to buds. Root uptake of nitrogen was stimulated by increased prey capture. This increase in uptake of nitrogen from the substrate was larger than the potential direct uptake of nitrogen from captured prey.

Key words

Carnivorous plants Nitrogen uptake 15Pinguicula Drosera 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldenius J, Carlsson B, Karlsson S (1983) Effects of insect trapping on growth and nutrient content of Pinguicula vulgaris L. in relation to the nutrient content of the substrate. New Phytol 93: 53–59Google Scholar
  2. Chandler GE, Anderson JW (1976) Studies on the nutrition and growth of Drosera species with reference to the carnivorous habit. New Phytol 76: 129–141Google Scholar
  3. Dixon KD, Pate JS, Bailey WJ (1980) Nitrogen nutrition of the tuberous sundew Drosera erythrorhiza Lindl. with special reference to catch of arthropod fauna by its glandular leaves. Aust J Bot 28: 283–297Google Scholar
  4. Friday L, Quarmby C (1994) Uptake and translocation of prey-derived 15N and 32P in Utricularia vulgaris L. New Phytol 126: 273–281Google Scholar
  5. Griffiths H (1991) Applications of stable isotope technology in physiological ecology. Funct Ecol 5: 254–269Google Scholar
  6. Handley LL, Raven JA (1992) The use of natural abundance of nitrogen isotopes in plant physiology and ecology. Plant Cell Environ 15: 965–985Google Scholar
  7. Heslop-Harrison Y, Knox RB (1971) A cytochemical study of the leaf gland enzymes of insectivorous plants of the genus Pinguicula. Planta 96: 183–211Google Scholar
  8. Jaffe K, Michelangeli F, Gonzales JM, Miras B, Ruiz MC (1992) Carnivory in pitcher plants of the genus Heliamphora (Sarraceniaceae). New Phytol 122: 733–744Google Scholar
  9. Karlsson PS (1986) Seasonal pattern of biomass allocation in flowering and nonflowering specimens of three Pinguicula species. Can J Bot 64: 2872–2877Google Scholar
  10. Karlsson PS (1988) Seasonal patterns of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassiumutilization by three Pinguicula species. Funct Ecol 2: 203–209Google Scholar
  11. Karlsson PS, Carlsson B (1984) Why does Pinguicula vulgaris L. trap insects? New Phytol 97: 25–30Google Scholar
  12. Karlsson PS, Pate JS (1992) Contrasting effects of supplementary feeding of insects or mineral nutrients on the growth and nitrogen and phosphorus economy of pygmy species of Drosera. Oecologia 92: 8–13Google Scholar
  13. Karlsson PS, Nordell KO, Eirefeldt S, Svensson A (1987) Trapping efficiency of three carnivorous Pinguicula species. Oecologia 73: 518–521Google Scholar
  14. Karlsson PS, Svensson BM, Carlsson BÅ, Nordell KO (1990) Resource investment in reproduction and its consequences in three Pinguicula species. Oikos 59: 393–398Google Scholar
  15. Karlsson PS, Thorén LM, Hanslin HM (1994) Prey capture by three Pinguicula species in a subarctic environment Oecologia 99: 88–193Google Scholar
  16. Lid J, Lid DT (1994) Norsk flora, 6th edn. Det Norske Samlag, OsloGoogle Scholar
  17. Molau U (1993) Reproductive ecology of the three Nordic Pinguicula species (Lentibulariaceae). Nord J Bot 13: 149–157Google Scholar
  18. Schulze E-D, Gebauer G, Schulze W, Pate JS (1991) The utilization of nitrogen from insect capture by different growth forms of Drosera from Southwest Australia Oecologia 87: 240–246Google Scholar
  19. Thum M (1986) Segregation of habitat and prey in two sympatric carnivorous plant species, Drosera rotundifolia and Drosera intermedia Oecologia 70: 601–605Google Scholar
  20. Thum M (1988) The significance of carnivory for the fitness of Drosera in its natural habitat 1. The reactions of Drosera intermedia and Drosera rotundifolia to supplementary feeding. Oecologia 75: 472–480Google Scholar
  21. Thum M (1989) The significance of carnivory for the fitness of Drosera in its natural habitat 2. The amount of captured prey and its effect on Drosera intermedia and Drosera rotundifolia. Oecologia 81: 401–411Google Scholar
  22. Watson AP, Matthiessen JN, Springett BP (1982) Arthropod associates and macronutrient status of the red-ink sundew (Drosera erythrorhiza Lindl.). Aust J Ecol 7: 13–22Google Scholar
  23. Zamora R (1990) The feeding ecology of a carnivorous plant (Pinguicula neyadense): prey analysis and capture constraints. Oecologia 84: 376–379Google Scholar
  24. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis, 2nd ed. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, pp 199–201Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. M. Hanslin
    • 1
  • P. S. Karlsson
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BotanyThe Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyDragvollNorway
  2. 2.Abisko Scientific Research StationAbiskoSweden
  3. 3.Department of Ecological BotanyUniversity of UppsalaUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations