Data from: Pitcher geometry facilitates extrinsically powered ‘springboard trapping’ in carnivorous Nepenthes gracilis pitcher plants



Carnivorous pitcher plants capture insects in cup-shaped leaves that function as motionless pitfall traps. Nepenthes gracilis, evolved a unique ‘springboard’ trapping mechanism that exploits the impact energy of falling raindrops to actuate a fast pivoting motion of the canopy-like pitcher lid. We superimposed multiple computerized micro-tomography images of the same pitcher to reveal distinct deformation patterns in lid-trapping N. gracilis and closely related pitfall-trapping N. rafflesiana. We found prominent differences between downward and upward lid displacement in N. gracilis only. Downward displacement was characterised by bending in two distinct deformation zones while upward displacement was accomplished by evenly distributed straightening of the entire upper rear section of the pitcher. This suggests an anisotropic impact response, which may help to maximize initial jerk forces for prey capture, as well as the subsequent damping of the oscillation. Our results point to a key role of pitcher geometry for effective ‘springboard’ trapping in N. gracilis.
Date made available2022

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