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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2009

  • Title: Dispersal of Yeasts in the Sarracenia purpurea metacommunity
  • Primary Author: Katherine Farley (Harvard University)
  • Additional Authors: Primrose Boynton (Harvard); Aaron Ellison (Independent); Anne Pringle (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
  • Abstract:

    Sarracenia purpurea, the northern pitcher plant, is composed of pitcher-shaped leaves that contain microbial communities. These leaves are separated by distance but linked by dispersal, forming a microbial metacommunity. In studying the yeast metacommunity in pitcher plants, our goal was to determine how far, if at all, yeasts living in pitcher plants can disperse to colonize other pitchers. We inoculated pitcher plants in the center of a greenhouse with a yeast that forms pink colonies. We then tested pitchers located from 1 to 4 meters from the inoculated plants using a microbial culture assay. We set aside samples with pink colonies after five days and made subcultures of the pink colonies for later testing. Pink colonies appeared in pitchers adjacent to the inoculation sites and in pitchers 4 meters away, as well as in all intermediate groups of plants. This suggests that yeasts can disperse up to 4 meters away from the inoculation site, but we do not yet know the means of dispersal or the maximum distance of dispersal. Further analysis of the pink subcultures is needed to determine whether pink colonies are indeed the yeast we used in the original inoculations. Future experiments may determine the means of dispersal and the maximum distance the yeasts can travel.

  • Research Category: Biodiversity Studies, Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions