Bacterial diversity in three distinct sub-habitats within the pitchers of the northern pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea

Joseph R. Krieger, Peter S. Kourtev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Pitcher plants have been widely used in ecological studies of food webs; however, their bacterial communities are poorly characterized. Pitchers of Sarracenia purpurea contain several distinct sub-habitats, namely the bottom sediment, the liquid, and the internal pitcher wall. We hypothesized that those three sub-habitats within pitcher plants are inhabited by distinct bacterial populations. We used denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and 16S rRNA gene sequencing to characterize bacterial populations in pitchers from three bogs. DGGE and sequencing revealed that in any given pitcher, the three sub-habitats contain significantly different bacterial populations. However, there was significant variability between bacterial populations inhabiting the same type of habitat in different pitchers, even at the same site. Therefore, no consistent set of bacterial populations was enriched in any of the three sub-habitats. All sub-habitats appeared to be dominated by alpha- and betaproteobacteria in differing proportions. In addition, sequences from the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were obtained from all three sub-habitats. We conclude that container aquatic habitats such as the pitchers of S. purpurea possess a very high bacterial diversity, with many unique bacterial populations enriched in individual pitchers. Within an individual pitcher, populations of certain bacterial families may be enriched in one of the three studied sub-habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-567
Number of pages13
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Northern pitcher plant
  • Sarracenia purpurea


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