Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 147–158 | Cite as

Diversity of the slippery zone microstructure in pitchers of nine carnivorous Nepenthes taxa

  • Martina J. Benz
  • Elena V. Gorb
  • Stanislav N. Gorb
Original Paper


Using a cryo-scanning electron microscope, we studied microstructure of the slippery zone in nine Nepenthes taxa. For N. fusca, N. macrophylla, N. mirabilis, N. ventricosa, N. dicksoniana, and N. veitchii, it was examined here for the first time. Three types of the slippery zone were distinguished among the studied taxa: (1) with well-developed crystalline wax coverage, (2) with greatly reduced wax coverage, and (3) without wax crystals. These data were combined with morphometrical measurements of the two pitcher zones primarily relevant to prey catching and retaining: the slippery zone and the peristome. In species with fully developed wax coverage, the slippery zone was longer and the peristome was narrower compared to those with reduced or lacking crystalline wax. We found statistically significant negative correlation between the relative length of the slippery zone and the relative width of the peristome. Based on the analysis of the relationship between the microstructure of the slippery zone and pitcher macromorphology, two main types of pitchers in Nepenthes are proposed: (a) traps based predominantly on the waxy slippery zone and (b) peristome-based traps.


Cryo-SEM Morphometry Peristome Reduced wax coverage Two-layered wax coverage Wax platelets 



Permanent technical assistance and support of C. Miksch (Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, Stuttgart, Germany) is greatly acknowledged. Plant material was kindly provided by D. Gotthardt (Botanical Garden at the University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany). We thank the employees of the greenhouse for taking care of plants and V. Kastner for linguistic correction of the manuscript. The first author acknowledges M. Baum for the support and discussions. This work was supported by the SPP 1,420 priority programme of German Science Foundation (DFG) ‘Biomimetic Materials Research: Functionality by Hierarchical Structuring of Materials’ (project GO 995/9-1, 995/9-2) to SG.

Supplementary material

11829_2011_9171_MOESM1_ESM.doc (53 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martina J. Benz
    • 1
  • Elena V. Gorb
    • 1
  • Stanislav N. Gorb
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Functional Morphology and BiomechanicsZoological Institute, University of KielKielGermany

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