A tale of two predators: The crab spider and a pitcher plant

The slender pitcher plant (above) gets part of its nutrients from other animals, mostly insects. It lures its victims with sweet nectar, digesting those that fall into the pitcher. The Thomisus nepenthiphilus, a species of crab spider, lives only in the p
The slender pitcher plant (above) gets part of its nutrients from other animals, mostly insects. It lures its victims with sweet nectar, digesting those that fall into the pitcher. The Thomisus nepenthiphilus, a species of crab spider, lives only in the plant. PHOTOS: LAM WENG NGAI
The slender pitcher plant gets part of its nutrients from other animals, mostly insects. It lures its victims with sweet nectar, digesting those that fall into the pitcher. The Thomisus nepenthiphilus (above), a species of crab spider, lives only in the p
The slender pitcher plant gets part of its nutrients from other animals, mostly insects. It lures its victims with sweet nectar, digesting those that fall into the pitcher. The Thomisus nepenthiphilus (above), a species of crab spider, lives only in the plant. PHOTOS: LAM WENG NGAI
Doctoral student Lam Weng Ngai with the slender pitcher plant, Nepenthes gracilis, which is native to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the island of Borneo.
Doctoral student Lam Weng Ngai with the slender pitcher plant, Nepenthes gracilis, which is native to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the island of Borneo. PHOTO: NUS

Crab spider uses pitcher plant's trapping mechanism to catch food, while giving host nutrients

In the wild, one would expect two predators to compete with each other for food, but research has shown that a spider and the carnivorous plant it calls home have made a pact.

Ecologists from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Science have conducted research on a poorly studied species of spider and how it uses the trapping mechanism of a pitcher plant to catch food, all the while also giving the plant nutrients.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'A tale of two predators'. Print Edition | Subscribe