Malaysia: new pitcher plant species discovered

In this video, Planet Earth shows some pitcher plants and their relationships with insects and arachnids.

From the Daily Express in Malaysia:

New pitcher plant species that went unnoticed

28 October, 2006

Kota Kinabalu: World authority on the ecology of pitcher plants Dr Charles Clarke has discovered a new species in Sabah.

It has been named Nepenthes chaniana (Nepenthaceae) after Sabahan Datuk CL Chan, who has become the first Malaysian to gets a nepenthes species named after him.

The species was found on Gunung Alab – the highest peak on the Crocker Range Park, which also means a protected habitat.

The discovery was published in the Sabah Parks Nature Journal.

This gives Sabah another added credential as one the 12 mega-biodiversity hot spots in the world.

After taxonomic efforts with Ch’ien Lee and Stewart McPherson confirmed it was new, the James Cook University research scientist decided to name it after Chan, as a tribute to Chan’s enormous publishing efforts on the biodiversity of Borneo and elsewhere.

“I feel it’s a great honour,” beamed Chan, Managing Director of Natural History Publications (Borneo).

The twist to the big breaking news is that this particular pitcher plant had actually been sighted in Sabah for ages.

But for a long, long time, N. chaniana was mistaken as Nepenthes pilosa Dans.

The latter was found in the remote mountains of Kalimantan in 1899 by Indonesian botanist, Amdjah who was part of the Nieuwenhuis Expedition and was subsequently described by Dutch botanist, B.H. Danser, in 1928.

Amdjah collected two and only two specimens of N. pilosa Dans on January 28, 1899 at 1,600m from Bukit Batu Lesung which is located geographically close to the center of Kalimantan but the population of N. pilosa from which his (Amdjah) material was collected has never been seen since.

As such, Dr Clarke had long doubted whether the so called ‘N. pilosa’ in Sabah is the same as the N. pilosa of Kalimantan.

Clarke made a personal expedition to Bukit Batu Lesung in July 2006 to check it out and found to his astonishment the real N. pilosa of Kalimantan is much more rounder and broader in shape.

Hence, Sabah’s so called ‘N. pilosa’ is decisively a different species.

Clarke, who has written a record of five books on nepenthes, rectified the mistake and that means N. chaniana is the newest species of nepenthes in the world!

Secret Of The Carnivorous Pitcher Plant’s Slurp — Solved At Last: here.

Pitcher Plant Doubles as Toilet for Tree Shrews: here.

The Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea Can Directly Acquire Organic Nitrogen and Short-Circuit the Inorganic Nitrogen Cycle: here.

For pitcher plant traps, incompetence is a virtue: here.

17 thoughts on “Malaysia: new pitcher plant species discovered

  1. Bug-eating pitcher plants reveal slimy secrets


    November 20, 2007

    By Ben Hirschler

    LONDON (Reuters) – The carnivorous pitcher plants that feed on insects in the Asian tropics may not snap shut like Venus flytraps, but they are smarter than they look.

    Rather than being passive pitfall traps, the tube-like pitchers of Nepenthes plants actually contain a clever slimy fluid — similar to mucus — that produces powerful filaments to snare prey, French researchers said on Wednesday.

    The unusual qualities of the fluid could one day be used to develop new, less environmentally harmful pesticides, the experts believe.

    Just how pitcher plants catch their prey has intrigued biologists since Charles Darwin’s time. Until now, it was thought that gravity and the slippery tube surface were the key, with the fluid in the pitcher simply helping digestion.

    But Laurence Gaume at the University of Montpellier and Yoel Forterre from the University of Marseille have discovered that the fluid actually has the perfect viscoelastic properties to snare flies and ants.

    “The elastic nature of the fluid is responsible for the huge spring-back forces that act on moving insects,” Forterre said.

    “The only chance for insects to escape the fluid would be to move slowly. But once they’ve fallen in the pitchers, insects most often panic and exhibit quick movements. It is like swimming in jelly.”

    The effect is seen even when the fluid is diluted more than 90 percent with water, as can happen during heavy rainfall in the jungles of Borneo, where many of the plants grow.

    The researchers have yet to identify the molecules responsible for the elastic properties of the fluid, which appears to be unique in the plant kingdom. But they believe the ingredient could help produce better pesticides in future.

    Viscoelastic fluids or polymers are often added to pesticides and herbicides to prevent sprayed droplets from bouncing off plants, so limiting soil pollution.

    The fluid from Nepenthes could provide new polymers that are both highly effective and environmentally friendly.

    The research was published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

    (Editing by Kevin Liffey)

    Copyright © 2007 Reuters


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