Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 11
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Bauer, Ulrike Rembold, Katja and Grafe, T. Ulmar 2016. CarnivorousNepenthespitcher plants are a rich food source for a diverse vertebrate community. Journal of Natural History, Vol. 50, Issue. 7-8, p. 483.

    Ho, Winnie W. and Riffell, Jeffrey A. 2016. The Olfactory Neuroecology of Herbivory, Hostplant Selection and Plant–Pollinator Interactions. Integrative and Comparative Biology, p. icw096.

    Campbell, Anthony K. and Matthews, Stephanie B. 2015. Darwin diagnosed?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 116, Issue. 4, p. 964.

    Pavlovič, Andrej and Saganová, Michaela 2015. A novel insight into the cost–benefit model for the evolution of botanical carnivory. Annals of Botany, Vol. 115, Issue. 7, p. 1075.

    van der Ent, Antony Sumail, Sukaibin and Clarke, Charles 2015. Habitat differentiation of obligate ultramafic Nepenthes endemic to Mount Kinabalu and Mount Tambuyukon (Sabah, Malaysia). Plant Ecology, Vol. 216, Issue. 6, p. 789.

    Zona, Scott and Christenhusz, Maarten J. M. 2015. Litter-trapping plants: filter-feeders of the plant kingdom. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 179, Issue. 4, p. 554.

    Kurup, R. Johnson, A. J. Sankar, S. Hussain, A. A. Kumar, C. Sathish Sabulal, B. and Rennenberg, H. 2013. Fluorescent prey traps in carnivorous plants. Plant Biology, Vol. 15, Issue. 3, p. 611.

    Moran, J. A. Gray, L. K. Clarke, C. and Chin, L. 2013. Capture mechanism in Palaeotropical pitcher plants (Nepenthaceae) is constrained by climate. Annals of Botany, Vol. 112, Issue. 7, p. 1279.

    Krol, E. Plachno, B. J. Adamec, L. Stolarz, M. Dziubinska, H. and Trebacz, K. 2012. Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores 'the most wonderful plants in the world'. Annals of Botany, Vol. 109, Issue. 1, p. 47.

    Moran, Jonathan A. Clarke, Charles Greenwood, Melinda and Chin, Lijin 2012. Tuning of color contrast signals to visual sensitivity maxima of tree shrews by three Bornean highland Nepenthes species. Plant Signaling & Behavior, Vol. 7, Issue. 10, p. 1267.

    Pavlovič, Andrej 2012. Adaptive radiation with regard to nutrient sequestration strategies in the carnivorous plants of the genus Nepenthes. Plant Signaling & Behavior, Vol. 7, Issue. 2, p. 295.


Pitchers of Nepenthes rajah collect faecal droppings from both diurnal and nocturnal small mammals and emit fruity odour

  • Konstans Wells (a1) (a2), Maklarin B. Lakim (a2), Stefan Schulz (a3) and Manfred Ayasse (a4)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 31 May 2011

The pitchers of Nepenthes rajah, a montane carnivorous plant species from Borneo, are large enough to capture small vertebrates such as rats or lizards, which occasionally drown therein. The interactions of N. rajah with vertebrates, however, are poorly understood, and the potential mechanisms that lure vertebrates to the pitchers are largely unknown. We observed frequent visits (average: one visit per 4.2 h) of both the diurnal tree shrew Tupaia montana and the nocturnal rat Rattus baluensis to pitchers by infrared sensor camera and video recording. Both mammalian species often licked the inner surface of the pitcher lid, which harbours numerous exudate-producing glands. Analysis of volatiles extracted from the secretions of the pitcher lids by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC/MS) revealed 44 volatile compounds, including hydrocarbons, alcohols, esters, ketones and sulphur-containing compounds, which are commonly present in sweet fruit and flower odours. The faeces of small mammals were repeatedly observed inside the pitcher, whereas we found the body of only one Tupaia montana drowned in the 42, vital and reasonably large, surveyed pitchers. Our findings suggest that the N. rajah pitcher makes use of the perceptual biases of rats and tree shrews by emitting volatiles known from fruits. The profits that the plant obtains from the repeated visits of two small mammals, together with the provision of exudates for the mammals, comprise an exceptional case of plant–vertebrate interaction.

Corresponding author
1Corresponding author. Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. K. ACHARYA , A. ROY & A. KRISHNA 1998. Relative role of olfactory cues and certain non-olfactory factors in foraging of fruit-eating bats. Behavioural Processes 44:5964.

A. BARTOLOMUCCI , B. G. DE & E. FUCHS 2001. How tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) perform in a searching task: evidence for strategy use. Journal of Comparative Psychology 115:344350.

U. BAUER , H. F. BOHN & W. FEDERLE 2008. Harmless nectar source or deadly trap: Nepenthes pitchers are activated by rain, condensation and nectar. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275:259265.

K. F. BENNETT & A. M. ELLISON 2009. Nectar, not colour, may lure insects to their death. Biology Letters 5:469472.

H. J. BESTMANN , L. WINKLER & O. VON HELVERSEN 1997. Headspace analysis of volatile flower scent constituents of bat-pollinated plants. Phytochemistry 46:11691172.

C. M. CLARKE , U. BAUER , C. I. C. LEE , K. REMBOLD & J. A. MORAN 2009. Tree shrew lavatories: a novel nitrogen sequestration strategy in a tropical pitcher plant. Biology Letters 5:632635.

R. T. CORLETT 2004. Flower visitors and pollination in the oriental (Indomalayan) region. Biological Reviews 79:497532.

B. DI GIUSTO , V. GROSBOIS , E. FARGEAS , D. J. MARSHALL & L. GAUME 2008. Contribution of pitcher fragrance and fluid viscosity to high prey diversity in a Nepenthes carnivorous plant from Borneo. Journal of Biosciences 33:121136.

B. DI GIUSTO , J. M. BESSIERE , M. GUEROULT , L. B. L. LIM , D. J. MARSHALL , M. HOSSAERT-MCKEY & L. GAUME 2010. Flower-scent mimicry masks a deadly trap in the carnivorous plant Nepenthes rafflesiana. Journal of Ecology 98:845856.

N. J. DOMINY , J. C. SVENNING & W. H. LI 2003. Historical contingency in the evolution of primate color vision. Journal of Human Evolution 44:2545.

R. HODGKISON , M. AYASSE , E. K. V. KALKO , C. HÄBERLEIN , S. SCHULZ , W. A. W. MUSTAPHA , A. ZUBAID & T. H. KUNZ 2007. Chemical ecology of fruit bat foraging behavior in relation to the fruit odors of two species of paleotropical bat-dispersed figs (Ficus hispida and Ficus scortechinii). Journal of Chemical Ecology 33:20972110.

D. M. JOEL 1988. Mimicry and mutualism in carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarraceniaceae, Nepenthaceae, Cephalotaceae, Bromeliaceae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 35:185197.

A. JÜRGENS , A. M. EL-SAYED & D. M. SUCKLING 2009. Do carnivorous plants use volatiles for attracting prey insects? Functional Ecology 23:875887.

J. T. KNUDSEN , R. ERIKSSON , J. GERSHENZON & B. STÅHL 2006. Diversity and distribution of floral scent. Botanical Review 72:1120.

M. A. MERBACH , D. J. MERBACH , U. MASCHWITZ , W. E. BOOTH , B. FIALA & G. ZIZKA 2002. Mass march of termites into the deadly trap. Nature 415:3637.

J. A. MORAN 1996. Pitcher dimorphism, prey composition and the mechanisms of prey attraction in the pitcher plant Nepenthes rafflesiana in Borneo. Journal of Ecology 84:515525.

S. M. NOR 2001. Elevational diversity patterns of small mammals on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Global Ecology and Biogeography 10:4162.

T. M. PALMER , M. L. STANTON & T. P. YOUNG 2003. Competition and coexistence: exploring mechanisms that restrict and maintain diversity within mutualist guilds. American Naturalist 162:S63S79.

R. A. RAGUSO 2008. Wake up and smell the roses: the ecology and evolution of floral scent. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 39:549569.

J. F. RIEGER & E. M. JAKOB 1988. The use of olfaction in food location by frugivorous bats. Biotropica 20:161164.

F. RÖCK , S. MUELLER , U. WEIMAR , H. G. RAMMENSEE & P. OVERATH 2006. Comparative analysis of volatile constituents from mice and their urine. Journal of Chemical Ecology 32:13331346.

M. H. SCHAEFER & G. D. RUXTON 2008. Fatal attraction: carnivorous plants roll out the red carpet to lure insects. Biology Letters 4:153155.

M. H. SCHAEFER , V. SCHAEFER & M. VOROBYEV 2007. Are fruit colors adapted to consumer vision and birds equally efficient in detecting colorful signals? American Naturalist 169:S159S169.

M. C. STENSMYR , I. URRU , I. COLLU , M. CELANDER , B. S. HANSSON & A. M. ANGIOY 2002. Rotting smell of dead-horse arum florets – these blooms chemically fool flies into pollinating them. Nature 420:625626.

STRAUSS, S. Y. & IRWIN, R. E. 2004. Ecological and evolutionary consequences of multispecies plant–animal interactions. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 35:435466.

R. TIRINDELLI , M. DIBATTISTA , S. PIFFERI & A. MENINI 2009. From pheromones to behavior. Physiological Reviews 89:921956.

F. VON STRALENDORFF 1982. A behaviorally relevant component of the scent signals of male Tupaia belangeri – 2,5 dimethylpyrazine. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 11:101107.

K. WELLS , E. K. V. KALKO , M. B. LAKIM & M. PFEIFFER 2007. Effects of rain forest logging on species richness and assemblage composition of small mammals in Southeast Asia. Journal of Biogeography 34:10871099.

K. WELLS , CORLETT R. T. LAKIM M. B. KALKO E. K. V. , & M. PFEIFFER 2009. Seed consumption by small mammals from Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25:555558.

G. A. WRIGHT & F. P. SCHIESTL 2009. The evolution of floral scent: the influence of olfactory learning by insect pollinators on the honest signalling of floral rewards. Functional Ecology 23:841851.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *