Overview

Comprehensive Description

Nepenthes attenboroughii is a montane species of insectivorous pitcher plant. It is named after the celebrated broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough,[1] who is a keen enthusiast of the genus Nepenthes. The species is characterised by its large and distinctive bell-shaped lower and upper pitchers and narrow, upright lid (Robinson et al, 2009).

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Distribution

Range Description

This plant is known only from Mount Victoria (1,726 m) in central Palawan, Philippines, where it is found on ultramafic slopes from 1,600 m to the summit (Robinson et al. 2009). Three colonies are now known, but the total area occupied by the species comprises a few hundred square metres on each side of the summit region, and therefore is significantly below 10 km² (Robinson et al. 2009).
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The type specimen of N. attenboroughii was collected on the summit of Mount Victoria, an ultramafic mountain in central Palawan, the Philippines.(Robinson et al, 2009)

This species is known only from the summit area of Mount Victoria, Palawan, to which it is endemic. There, it grows among shrubs 0.8-1.8 m tall in relatively scattered populations of plants on rocky, ultramafic soil. It is not sympatric with other Nepenthes species.(Robinson et al, 2009)

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Overall Nepenthes attenboroughii is a terrestrial upright or scrambling shrub.(Robinson et al, 2009)

Stem The stem, which may be up to 3.5 cm thick, is circular in cross section and attains a height of up to 1.5 m.(Robinson et al, 2009)

Leaves The leaves are coriaceous and sessile or sub-petiolate. The leaves of rosettes are up to 30 cm long and 10 cm wide, whereas those of the scrambling stem are up to 40 cm long and 15 cm wide. The leaves are oblong to elliptic, obtuse at the apex and shortly attenuate at the base, clasping the stem by approximately two-thirds of its circumference and becoming decurrent for 2-3 cm.(Robinson et al, 2009)

Pitchers Nepenthes attenboroughii produces some of the largest pitchers in the genus, sometimes exceeding those of typical N. rajah in size, but is not known to have exceeded the size and volume records set by that species. The lower pitchers are brittle and campanulate (bell-shaped), up to 30 cm tall and 16 cm wide and emerge from tendrils that are 30-40 cm long and 4-9 mm in diameter. The tendrils are obviously flattened towards the leaf, making them almost semi-circular in cross section.(Robinson et al, 2009)

The upper pitchers are similar to the lower pitchers, but generally infundibular, to 25 cm tall and 12 cm wide.(Robinson et al, 2009)

Inflorescence Nepenthes attenboroughii has a racemose inflorescence up to 80 cm long. The male flower spike bears approximately 100 pedicellate flowers on a rachis up to 45 cm long and is recorded to bifurcate on occasion. The flowers lack bracts and produce red tepals that are broadly ovate with an obtuse apex.(Robinson et al, 2009)

The female inflorescence is shorter, to 65 cm long, never bifurcates, and bears up to 70 densely arranged flowers on a compact rachis up to 20 cm long. The tepals are brown to purple, ovate, and have an acute apex.(Robinson et al, 2009)

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This carnivorous plant occurs on nickel/magnesium-rich, ultramafic soils only, and mainly in high altitude shrubland. The species is dioecious (i.e., male and female plants exist), with a slight male bias. Any decrease in the population will therefore have a greater impact on reproductive potential as no single plant can reproduce itself in the absence of plants of the opposite sex.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Carnivory The pitchers of N. attenboroughii are open to the elements and thus often completely filled with fluid. This fluid is viscous in the lower part of the pitcher and watery above, forming two fractions that do not mix. The upper fraction supports populations of pitcher infauna, particularly mosquito larvae, and the pitchers of this species may benefit from both the usual capture of prey as well as the detritus produced by organisms living within the pitcher fluid.(Robinson et al, 2009)

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Systematics and Taxonomy

Nepenthes attenboroughii is closely related to the Palawan species, N. mantalingajanensis and N. mira, to N. peltata from Mindanao, and to N. rajah from Borneo.(Robinson et al, 2009)

The stated relationship of this taxon with species from Borneo and Mindanao agrees with observations made in the description of N. mira,(Cheek and Jebb, 1999) and is further supported in the type description of N. attenboroughii by paleogeographical evidence. Based on this evidence, the authors reason that these species, predominantly found growing on ultramafic soils on Palawan and Mindanao, are likely to have arisen as a result of the radiative speciation of a common ancestor in Borneo.(Robinson et al, 2009)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(v)+2ab(v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
Robinson, A.S. & Madulid, D.A.

Reviewer/s
Clarke, C.M. & Cantley, R.

Contributor/s

Justification
Attenborough's Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes attenboroughii) is known only from the summit region of Mount Victoria, occurring in a narrow elevational band. The species therefore occupies a small geographical area (significantly below 10 km²), and has a low population density (less than one plant per 20 m²), estimated by random quadrats and by eye.

Species from this genus are routinely poached from the wild in Palawan where, as is common throughout the Philippine archipelago, the curiosity and monetary value of the plants far exceeds their conservation value, which is poorly emphasized to anyone but visiting tourists.

Attenborough's Pitcher Plant will attract such attention given its large size, beautiful pitchers and rarity. There were signs of plant removal present at Mount Victoria, the only known locality for this species. Given their slow growth and low seed viability, the species may be very much subject to population decline even from low collection pressures.
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Robinson et al. (2009) assess this species as CR (Critically Endangered) according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List Criteria B2ab(v) (IUCN, 2001). They base their assessment on the species' limited distribution and its vulnerability to poaching.

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Population

Population
Plants grow singly or in sparsely scattered groups of a few individuals (density less than one plant per 20 m²), therefore the known population of two colonies consists of only a few hundred individuals (Robinson et al. 2009).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
The main threat to this species is from poaching; the mountain is relatively inaccessible to casual hikers, therefore potential for habitat destruction is limited, but the monetary value of these plants is high, particularly on the Taiwanese and Japanese markets. A nickel mine operates at the base of the mountain; currently, operations have been suspended but the area, including the summit, has been prospected for other potential mining activities.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There are no in situ conservation measures currently in place for this species. Mount Victoria is subject to mining at its base and has no status as a 'Protected Area' (the local designation for National Parks). However, all plants of the genus Nepenthes are included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
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Wikipedia

Nepenthes attenboroughii

Nepenthes attenboroughii (/nɨˈpɛnθz ˌætɨnˈbɜri./ or /ˌætɨnbəˈrɡi./), or Attenborough's pitcher plant,[2] is a montane species of insectivorous pitcher plant of the genus Nepenthes. It is named after the celebrated broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough,[3][4] who is a keen enthusiast of the genus. The species is characterised by its large and distinctive bell-shaped lower and upper pitchers and narrow, upright lid.[1] The type specimen of N. attenboroughii was collected on the summit of Mount Victoria, an ultramafic mountain in central Palawan, the Philippines.[1]

In May 2010, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selected N. attenboroughii as one of the "top 10 new species described in 2009".[5][6] The species appeared on the 2012 list of the world's 100 most threatened species compiled by the IUCN Species Survival Commission in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London.[2]

Botanical history[edit]

Nepenthes attenboroughii was discovered by Alastair S. Robinson, Stewart R. McPherson and Volker B. Heinrich in June 2007, during a 2 month research expedition to catalogue the different species of pitcher plant found across the Philippine Archipelago.[7] The expedition was initiated after missionaries reported seeing giant Nepenthes on the mountain in 2000.[4][8][9][10]

The formal description of N. attenboroughii was published in February 2009 in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. The herbarium specimen A. Robinson AR001 is the designated holotype, and is deposited at the herbarium of Palawan State University (PPC), Puerto Princesa City.[1]

Further accounts of this species appeared in McPherson's Pitcher Plants of the Old World, published in May 2009,[11] and in the December 2009 issue of the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter.[12]

The rosette (juvenile) pitchers of N. attenboroughii demonstrate the typical bell shape of this species when only a few inches high

Description[edit]

Nepenthes attenboroughii is a terrestrial upright or scrambling shrub. The stem, which may be up to 3.5 cm thick, is circular in cross section and attains a height of up to 1.5 m.[1]

Leaves and pitchers[edit]

The leaves are coriaceous and sessile or sub-petiolate. The leaves of rosettes are up to 30 cm long and 10 cm wide, whereas those of the scrambling stem are up to 40 cm long and 15 cm wide. The leaves are oblong to elliptic, obtuse at the apex and shortly attenuate at the base, clasping the stem by approximately two-thirds of its circumference and becoming decurrent for 2–3 cm.[1]

Nepenthes attenboroughii produces some of the largest pitchers in the genus, sometimes exceeding those of typical N. rajah in size, but is not known to have exceeded the size and volume records set by that species.[1] The largest recorded pitcher of N. attenboroughii measured more than 1.5 litres in volume, and traps exceeding 2 litres are likely to be produced on occasion.[11] The lower pitchers are brittle and campanulate (bell-shaped), up to 30 cm tall and 16 cm wide and emerge from tendrils that are 30–40 cm long and 4–9 mm in diameter. The tendrils are flattened towards the leaf, making them almost semi-circular in cross section.

The upper pitchers are similar to the lower pitchers, but generally infundibular, to 25 cm tall and 12 cm wide.

The pitchers show considerable variation in both shape and colouration, ranging from green or yellow to dark purple throughout.[13]

Inflorescence[edit]

Nepenthes attenboroughii has a racemose inflorescence up to 80 cm long. The male flower spike bears approximately 100 pedicellate flowers on a rachis up to 45 cm long and is recorded to bifurcate on occasion. The flowers lack bracts and produce red tepals that are broadly ovate with an obtuse apex.

The female inflorescence is shorter, to 65 cm long, never bifurcates, and bears up to 70 densely arranged flowers on a compact rachis up to 20 cm long. The tepals are brown to purple, ovate, and have an acute apex.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species is endemic to the Victoria Massif in Palawan. There, it grows from 1450 m above sea level to the summit of Mount Victoria at 1726 m.[14] Originally known only from Mount Victoria itself, it has since been found on the largest peak of the Victoria Massif, Mount Sagpaw, and along the connecting ridges from the site of first collection.[14][15][16][17] The species is found among shrubs 0.8–1.8 m tall in relatively scattered populations of plants on rocky, ultramafic soil. It is not sympatric with other Nepenthes species and no natural hybrids have been recorded.[1][11]

The summit flora of Mount Victoria includes Leptospermum sp., Medinilla spp., Pleomele sp., Vaccinium sp., various grasses, as well as the sundew Drosera ultramafica, which grows at similar elevations to N. attenboroughii.[18]

Conservation[edit]

Nepenthes attenboroughii is assessed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) on account of its restricted distribution and the threat posed by plant poachers.[19]

Carnivory[edit]

A lower pitcher of N. attenboroughii supporting a large population of mosquito larvae
Botanist Alastair Robinson examines the pitcher contents of N. attenboroughii on Mount Victoria, wherein the remains of a newly killed terrestrial shrew identified in the pitcher in October 2012 have been largely digested by December of the same year.

The pitchers of N. attenboroughii are open to the elements and thus often completely filled with fluid. This fluid is viscous in the lower part of the pitcher and watery above, forming two fractions that do not mix. The upper fraction supports populations of pitcher infauna, particularly mosquito larvae, and the pitchers of this species may benefit from both the usual capture of prey as well as the detritus produced by organisms living within the pitcher fluid.[1]

In the latter half of 2009, this taxon received a great deal of publicity in the national press of various countries as a sensational new plant that catches and kills rats.[20] Whilst certainly large enough to trap rodents, no rodents of any kind had, at that time, been observed within the pitchers of this species, as indicated in the type description and through subsequent clarification by the author, Alastair Robinson, who suggested that were rodents to be captured by the plant, it was likely to be through misadventure rather than by design, large bugs and flying insects appearing to be the usual prey.[1][21]

In October 2012, however, a dead shrew was found in a pitcher of Nepenthes attenboroughii during a return expedition to Mount Victoria by Robinson and a group of naturalists.[22] Yet another visit almost two months later, in December 2012, allowed the botanist to assess and document the rate of digestion on video. It was found that the corpse of the shrew had, in the intervening weeks, progressed from a wholly intact state to mere skeletal remains, with only scant viscera and a matte of hair at the bottom of the pitcher still apparent.[23]

Related species[edit]

Nepenthes attenboroughii is closely related to the Palawan species, N. deaniana, N. leonardoi,[24] N. mantalingajanensis, N. mira, and N. palawanensis (which produces even larger pitchers),[25][26] to N. peltata from Mindanao, and to N. rajah from Borneo.[1]

The stated relationship of this taxon with species from Borneo and Mindanao agrees with observations made in the description of N. mira,[27] and is further supported in the type description of N. attenboroughii by previously overlooked paleogeographical evidence. Based on this evidence, the authors reason that these species, predominantly found growing on ultramafic soils on Palawan and Mindanao, are likely to have arisen as a result of the radiative speciation of a common ancestor in Borneo.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Robinson, A.S., A.S. Fleischmann, S.R. McPherson, V.B. Heinrich, E.P. Gironella & C.Q. Peña 2009. A spectacular new species of Nepenthes L. (Nepenthaceae) pitcher plant from central Palawan, Philippines. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 159(2): 195–202. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2008.00942.x
  2. ^ a b Baillie, J.E.M. & E.R. Butcher 2012. Priceless or Worthless? The world's most threatened species. Zoological Society of London, United Kingdom.
  3. ^ George, A. & K. Austen 2009. #AskAttenborough: Your questions answered. New Scientist, May 15, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Smyth, C. 2009. Giant rat-eating nepenthes plant named after David Attenborough. Times Online, August 18, 2009.
  5. ^ Scientists select new species for top 10 list; issue SOS. ASU News, May 20, 2010.
  6. ^ Top 10 - 2010: Attenborough's Pitcher. International Institute for Species Exploration.
  7. ^ European botanists find new Palawan plant. Manila Bulletin, October 16, 2007.
  8. ^ Walker, M. 2009. Giant 'meat-eating' plant found. BBC Earth News, August 11, 2009.
  9. ^ McPherson, S.R. 2009. The Discovery of Nepenthes attenboroughii. In: Pitcher Plants of the Old World. Volume 2. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole. pp. 1320–1333.
  10. ^ McPherson, S.R. 2011. The Discovery of Nepenthes attenboroughii. In: New Nepenthes: Volume One. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole. pp. 174–202.
  11. ^ a b c McPherson, S.R. 2009. Pitcher Plants of the Old World. 2 volumes. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole.
  12. ^ McPherson, S. 2009. Nepenthes attenboroughii: a new species of giant pitcher plant from the Philippines. Carnivorous Plant Newsletter 38(4): 100–101.
  13. ^ Mey, F.S. 2014. Highlighting Nepenthes variation within a species. Strange Fruits: A Garden's Chronicle, July 3, 2014.
  14. ^ a b McPherson, S.R. & V.B. Amoroso 2011. Field Guide to the Pitcher Plants of the Philippines. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole.
  15. ^ McPherson, S.R. 2011. Expanding the Range of Nepenthes attenboroughii. In: New Nepenthes: Volume One. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole. pp. 346–363.
  16. ^ Cullen, D. & B. Quinn 2012. Exploring Mount Victoria, Central Palawan – revisiting the habitat of N. attenboroughii. Part 1: Mt Victoria – Peak 1 & 2. Victorian Carnivorous Plant Society Inc. 105: 6–13.
  17. ^ Cullen, D. & B. Quinn 2012. Exploring Mount Victoria, Central Palawan – revisiting the habitat of N. attenboroughii. Part 2: Mt Sagpaw. Victorian Carnivorous Plant Society Inc. 106: 6–12.
  18. ^ Fleischmann, A., A.S. Robinson, S. McPherson, V. Heinrich, E. Gironella & D.A. Madulid 2011. Drosera ultramafica (Droseraceae), a new sundew species of the ultramafic flora of the Malesian highlands. Blumea 56(1): 10–15.
  19. ^ Robinson, A.S. & D.A. Madulid 2012. Nepenthes attenboroughii. 2013 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2013. Retrieved on 4 July 2013. Listed as Critically Endangered (B1ab(v)+2ab(v) v3.1).
  20. ^ Google 2009. Rodent-eating plant discovered in Palawan. Google News aggregator, August 18, 2009.
  21. ^ Robinson, A.S. 2009. Nepenthes attenboroughii in the press. CPUK Forum, August 19, 2009.
  22. ^ Giant Nepenthes Trip: Mt. Victoria Philippines. Leilani Nepenthes - Photo Archives.
  23. ^ Mey, F.S. 2013. Terrestrial shrew remains in Nepenthes attenboroughii [VIDEO]. Strange Fruits: A Garden's Chronicle, August 22, 2013.
  24. ^ McPherson, S., G. Bourke, J. Cervancia, M. Jaunzems, E. Gironella, A. Robinson & A. Fleischmann 2011. Nepenthes leonardoi (Nepenthaceae), a new pitcher plant species from Palawan, Philippines. Carniflora Australis 8(1): 4–19.
  25. ^ McPherson, S., J. Cervancia, C. Lee, M. Jaunzems, A. Fleischmann, F. Mey, E. Gironella & A. Robinson 2010. Nepenthes palawanensis (Nepenthaceae), a new pitcher plant species from Sultan Peak, Palawan Island, Philippines. In: S.R. McPherson Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats. Volume 2. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole. pp. 1332–1339.
  26. ^ McPherson, S. 2010. Nepenthes palawanensis: another new species of giant pitcher plant from the Philippines. Carnivorous Plant Newsletter 39(3): 89–90.
  27. ^ Cheek, M.R. & M.H.P. Jebb 1999. Nepenthes (Nepenthaceae) in Palawan, Philippines. Kew Bulletin 54(4): 887–895. doi:10.2307/4111166

Further reading[edit]

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