Carnivorous plants avoid below-ground competition for nitrogen by utilizing an alternative nitrogen resource—invertebrate prey, but it remains unclear if sympatric carnivorous plants compete for prey resources. The aim of this study was to investigate if exploitative prey-resource competition occurs between the two sympatric pitcher plant species, Nepenthes rafflesiana and N. gracilis in Singapore. We first investigated if prey-resource partitioning occurs between these two species, and then investigated niche shift in N. gracilis by examining its pitcher contents along an in situ gradient of N. rafflesiana interspecific competition. Our results showed clear evidence of resource partitioning between the two species, but contrary to the expectation of competition, proximity to N. rafflesiana pitchers correlated with higher total prey numbers in N. gracilis pitchers. Our multivariate model of prey assemblages further suggested that N. rafflesiana facilitates N. gracilis prey capture, especially in several ant taxa that are trapped by both species. Concurrently, we found strong evidence for intraspecific competition between N. gracilis pitchers, suggesting that prey resources are exhaustible by pitcher-predation. Our results show that resource partitioning can be associated with facilitative interactions, instead of competition as is usually assumed. Facilitation is more typically expected between phylogenetically distant species, but divergences in resource acquisition strategies can permit facilitation between congeners.
Plant Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 16, 2018
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