Small mammals use Borneo pitcher plant as toilet in exchange for nectar
Tree shrews and nocturnal rats in the forests of Borneo have a unique relationship with carnivorous pitcher plants. The mammals defecate, and the pitchers are happy to receive.
A study published on May 31 in the Journal of Tropical Ecology shows a species of giant mountain pitcher plants (Nepenthes rajah) supplements its diet with nitrogen from the feces of tree shrews (Tupaia montana) that forage in daylight and summit rats (Rattus baluensis) active at night. When the small mammals lick nectar from the underside of the pitcher’s lid, they stand directly over the jug-shaped pitcher organ.
The pitchers grow in nutrient-poor, acidic soils and require a supplemental source of nitrogen. Carnivorous plants usually digest bugs, grabbing nitrogen from protein. The Bornean pitchers consume nitrogen-rich feces.