Call it the "Little Bog of Horrors." In what is believed to be a first for North America, biologists at the University of Guelph have discovered that meat-eating pitcher plants in Ontario's Algonquin Park wetlands consume not just bugs but also young salamanders.
[...]Pitcher plants growing in wetlands across Canada have long been known to eat creatures—mostly insects and spiders—that fall into their bell-shaped leaves and decompose in rainwater collected there.
But until now, no one had reported this salamander species caught by a pitcher plant in North America, including Canada's oldest provincial park, a popular destination where the plants have been observed for hundreds of years.
[...]In summer 2017, then undergraduate student Teskey Baldwin found a salamander trapped inside a pitcher plant during a U of G field ecology course in the provincial park.
[...]Monitoring pitcher plants around a single pond in the park in fall 2018, the team found almost one in five contained the juvenile amphibians, each about as long as a human finger. Several plants contained more than one captured salamander.
Those observations coincided with "pulses" of young salamanders crawling onto land after changing from their larval state in the pond. Smith said these bog ponds lack fish, making salamanders a key predator and prey species in food webs.
[...]Some trapped salamanders died within three days, while others lived for up to 19 days.
More information: Patrick D. Moldowan et al, Nature's pitfall trap: Salamanders as rich prey for carnivorous plants in a nutrient‐poor northern bog ecosystem, Ecology (2019). DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2770 [doi.org]