Mind the Trap: Predator-Prey relationship in carnivorous pitcher plants
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Some specialized small insects, such as Tripteroides tenax, are able to lay eggs in the fluids present in carnivorous pitcher plants (e.g. species of Nepenthes genus). In their aquatic life stages, whilst developing, these small insects use and transform the compounds in these fluids into nutrients, such as ammonium, which Nepenthes can absorb and use for growth and reproduction.
Nonetheless, some predatory species may take advantage of such relationship and also lay their eggs on the insides of carnivorous pitcher plants in order to prey on another species' emerging adults. In their larval stage, for example, Xenoplatyura beaveri build small webs at the liquid surface in pitchers (see figure), snaring their hasty neighbours to later prey upon them.
Figure 1:The web built by X. beaveri on the pitcher of Nepenthes ampullaria.
The role of predatory species such as Xenoplatyura beaveri in their relation with carnivorous pitcher plants has been studied recently. After devouring their prey, these larvae's feces, which contain nutrients for the plants, fall on the pitcher an contribute to the deposit of nutrients therein.
However, the net effect of this predator-prey relationship for Nepenthes remains in discussion. If, on the one hand, the increase of nutrients deposit may allow the net effect to be classified as positive for carnivorous pitcher plants, on the other, their main contributors' population size is decreased due to predation, leading to less nutrient in their pitchers and, consequently, reduced plant reproduction on the long run.
Build a mathematical model that incorporates the dynamics of this biological system. Analyze the model and use it to formulate and answer questions you may find along the way.