Morphological correlates of necromass accumulation in the traps of an Eastern tropical pitcher plant, Nepenthes ampullaria Jack, and observations on the pitcher infauna and its reconstitution following experimental removal
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I studied the trap morphology, necromass accumulation rates and pitcher infauna of an eastern tropical pitcher plant, Nepenthes ampullaria, that grew in `kerangas' heath forest in the Sungei Ingei Conservation Area, Brunei. I surveyed 164 pitchers distributed among 35 plants and extracted the necromass and larval infauna from the pitchers and then resampled the pitcher contents after 14 days. Plants varied significantly in the morphology of their pitchers, in their rate of necromass accumulation per pitcher and in the abundance and composition of the pitcher infaunas. On average, pitchers accumulated 11.5 mg dry weight over 14 days, but larger pitchers accumulated more necromass than smaller ones. Pitcher morphology explained 45% of the variation in necromass accumulation among plants. On average, pitchers initially contained 26.3 individual larval inquilines. Collectively, the larval infauna was composed of nine taxa of dipteran larvae and infrequent anuran tadpoles. These ten taxa were never found together in a single pitcher and the mean species richness per pitcher was 4.0. Of the six taxa that could be assessed, all except Toxorhynchites spp. had a contagious distribution among the pitchers. Pitcher morphology and necromass accumulation explained only 15% of the variation in inquiline abundance among plants. I found little evidence for the existence of density-dependent interactions between inquiline species: a partial correlation analysis detected only one statistically significant pairwise relationship between the abundances of inquiline taxa, which was a positive association. Fourteen days after being emptied, pitchers contained an average of 9.6 inquilines. There was no evidence that the species composition of the infauna recolonising each pitcher was related to that of its pre-removal infauna.
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