Pitcher Plants: Carnivores or Toilets?

The giant pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes (previously at Neatorama) were thought to be carnivorous plants that could eat rodents. These pitchers, native to Borneo, are so big they would hold two liters of liquid if filled. However, carnivorous plant expert Dr. Charles Clarke has never seen a rodent inside one. He has seen tree shrew feces in them. Dr. Clarke and his colleagues in Malaysia began to look at Nepenthes in a new way. The opening of the pitcher plant is the same size and shape as a tree shrew. One end of the opening exudes delicious nectar.
"In order for the tree shrews to reach the exudates, they must climb onto the pitchers and orient themselves in such a way that their backsides are located over the pitcher mouths," explains Dr Clarke.

If the plant is a toilet, it receives nitrogen and other plant nutrients from shrew feces. Species of pitcher plants that do not attract tree shrews have different shapes.
Dr Clarke says it is the "neatest" discovery he has made in more than 20 years of studying Nepenthes meat-eating plants.

"The findings should radically alter how we look at these plants," he says.

Pretty neat indeed, especially if you are a tree shrew. Link -via Zooillogix

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Under the light of what we have learned today, Edward, it would be like... eww.
Now, this poses interesting questions on how to turn Nephentes into compost toilets for humans and which kind of sweets would be needed to attract them.

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