Leonora Bittleston: Investigating Symbiosis in Carnivorous Pitcher Plants

WED, JUN 4, 2014 (45:41)

The idea of a plant eating an animal is very strange. Scientists were ridiculed when they originally suggested plants could be carnivorous. But now we know that carnivory has actually evolved multiple times in plants, in a pattern called convergent evolution. Bittleston’s lecture discussed how pitcher plants are perfect examples of this, as their particular form has evolved three separate times in different parts of the world. Some creatures are food for pitcher plants, yet others can’t survive without them. Bittleston talked about the communities of insects and bacteria that live happily inside pitcher plants’ deadly pools of water. At the end of the lecture, Bittleston discussed new technology and theory used to study the communities within pitcher plants.

+ BIO: Leonora Bittleston

Bittleston is a graduate student in the Pierce and Pringle labs in the department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She studies the ecology and evolution of interactions among microbes, insects, and plants; with a focus on symbiosis and mutualism. Her research examines community diversity and structure in the aquatic microcosms within convergently evolved carnivorous pitcher plants.

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