Carnivory in the Bromeliad Brocchinia reducta, with a Cost/Benefit Model for the General Restriction of Carnivorous Plants to Sunny, Moist, Nutrient-Poor Habitats

  • Givnish T
  • Burkhardt E
  • Happel R
 et al. 
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Members of the plant family Bromeliaceae occupy a wide range of habitats in the New World (Pittendrigh 1948; Tomlinson 1969; Gilmartin 1973; Smith and Downs 1974). Many of these, particularly epiphytic perches on trees and shrubs, have substrates that are exceedingly poor in mineral nutrients (Benzing and Renfrow 1971, 1974; Benzing 1973, 1980). Perhaps because of this, and because many bromeliads impound water in "tanks" among their overlapping leaf bases into which insects or other animals can blunder and drown, several botanists have suggested that some bromeliads may be carnivorous. Here we describe the first confirmed case of carnivory among bromeliads in Brocchinia reducta, a terrestrial species native to moist sand savannas and bogs in the Guayana Highlands. We discuss the possible derivation of the carnivorous habit within Brocchinia, and provide a rigorous definition of carnivory in plants. A cost/benefit model for the evolution of carnivory is presented to analyze why carnivory is restricted mainly to plants of sunny, moist, nutrient-poor sites and is rare in epiphytes and other bromeliads. We begin by considering previous claims for the existence of carnivory in the Bromeliaceae.

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  • Thomas J. Givnish

  • Elizabeth L. Burkhardt

  • Ruth E. Happel

  • Jason D. Weintraub

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