Bornean Pitcher Plant
Nepenthes hemsleyana is a pitcher plant that is part of the Nepenthaceae family and grows in tropical moist forests in north-western Borneo, which is a country located in Asia (Schoner, 2014). This plant is similar in looks to most pitcher plants, as it has pitcher like leaves (Merbach & Merbach, n.d). Specifically the pitchers of this plant are elongated compared to other species, and the upper pitchers contain an epicuticular wax area (Schoner, 2014).
As with other Nepenthes, it grows in nutrient poor soils, meaning it requires another supply of nutrients to acquire nitrogen (Davies, 2011). Most Nepenthes species deal with this lack of nitrogen by carnivorous methods, using their pitchers to trap various insects and small animals (Merbach & Merbach, n.d) Nepenthes hemsleyana, however, does not have the usual traits necessary for this, and thus its insect capture rate is very low (Schoner, 2014). Instead, this species relies on a specific wooly bat, Kerivoula hardwickii, which frequently rests inside the pitchers (Schoner, 2014). These wooly bats excrete into the pitchers, and the droppings and urine contribute about 34% to the plants total nitrogen (Schoner, 2014).
A problem that exists for the bats and Nepenthes hemsleyana is their difficulty of finding each other (Schoner, 2014). Co-adaptations have been found that promote the interaction of these two species (Schoner, Schoner, Simon, Grafe, & Kerth, 2013). Research has found that Nepenthes hemsleyana is better able to reflect the bat’s echoes than other pitcher plants species (Schoner et al, 2013). This is due to a parabolic shaped structure present on the upper half of the pitcher that can reflect echoes (Schoner et al, 2013).
Davies, E. (2011, January 26). Bats in Borneo roost in carnivorous pitcher plants. BBC Earth News. Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9372000/9372874.stm
Merbach, M. & Merbach, D. (n.d). Nepenthes from Borneo. Retrieved from: http://nepenthes.merbach.net/english/plant.html
Schoner M.G. 2014. The Bornean pitcher plant Nepenthes hemsleyana – its natural history and interaction with a bat mutualist. Retrieved from: http://www.carnivorousplants.org/news/Conference/Cairns_10th_ICPS_Conference_Program.pdf
Schoner, M., Schoner, C., Simon, R., Grafe, U., & Kerth G. 2013. Echo-acoustic adaptation in a bat-pitcher plant metabolism. Retrieved from: http://www.seabcru.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ibrc_2013_abstracts.pdf