Defense and carnivory: Dual role of bracts in Passiflora foetida
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Members of the genus Passiflora are reported to have evolved modifications which kill insects; they have however never been tested for carnivorous syndrome. The flowers of Passiflora foetida consists of highly reticulate bracts which cover and grow along with the buds and fruits. Removal of bracts from developing bud and fruit resulted in higher predatory damage compared to those where the bracts were intact. These bracts also possess a large number of minute glands which ooze sticky secretion. A variety of tiny insects were found trapped by the secretion of the bracts. The secretion of these glands show high proteases and acid phosphatase activity, two common digestive enzymes found in traps of true carnivorous plants. A high quantity of aminoacids were released from freshly freeze killed ants when incubated in buffer extract of bracts [14C] phenylalanine smeared on the glandular surface of bracts was recovered from ovules suggesting potential for absorption of aminoacids. These results suggest a novel role for bracts where primary function is to minimize predatory damage to developing flowers and fruits. The bracts serve as insect traps and also possess the mechanism to digest the trapped insects to obtain free aminoacids.