Kadeem Gilbert, PhD Student
Naomi Pierce Lab, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Topic: Tropical Pitcher Plants as an Ecological Filter
Living organisms can act as ecological filters that alter the ability of other species to establish and persist in defined local environments. Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) are carnivorous plants with modified leaves (pitchers) containing digestive fluid for trapping and digesting prey; this pitcher fluid hosts a diverse community of aquatic arthropods and microbes in nature. With over 140 described species in the genus, there is a vast level of interspecific diversity in pitcher morphology and physiology. For instance, pitchers have active control over the pH of the fluid, and some species produce viscoelastic fluid. As pitcher physiology influences the abiotic conditions of the pitcher fluid, such traits can mediate their interactions with symbionts and affect the resultant community composition of the pitcher microbiome. We examine this experimentally with a common garden study of 16 Nepenthes species in a Singapore glasshouse, where external environmental conditions are controlled and the potential microbial pool is shared among all species. Metabarcoding of 16S and 18S genes reveals how communities and individual bacterial and eukaryotic taxa respond to differences in plant-regulated traits.