BEACON TRANSCRIPT- In school we learned all about carnivorous plants. From the 101 biology class, we know that there any many species of carnivorous plants, the pitcher plant and the Venus fly trap being the most popular plants in this category. New studies have revealed the truth behind carnivorous plants, and it seems that they are not as mindless as we deemed them to be.
When talking about carnivorous plants, the first question we have in mind is what drives these species of plant to adopt meat-based diet? Let’s take a little trip back to biology 101. Unlike other species of plant, carnivorous plants tend to live in soil devoid of nutrients.
Because they could not obtain their nutrients for the soil, the plants evolved in order to seek nutrients somewhere else. Most carnivorous plants prey on small insects, but there have been reports of huge carnivorous plants, capable of ingesting small rodents, birds or even snakes in the blink of an eye.
The two popular species of plants have evolved different hunting mechanisms. For instance, the Venus fly trap is capable of trapping its prey using a mouse-like trap. When the critter lands on the Venus fly trap, the plant is capable of sensing the fly’s presence via small and sensible hairs. This triggers an autonomic response, making the plant trap the critter.
On the other hand, the pitcher plant traps its prey using a rolled leaf imbued with gastric juice. In order to lure its prey, the plant uses a sweet scent.
The first one to write about carnivorous plants was Charles Darwin himself. The father of the theory of natural selection minutely described the evolutionary mechanism of carnivorous plants. Moreover, the scientists also dedicated a book to these species of plants entitled “Insectivorous plants”.
Nowadays, biologists and botanists using Darwin’s works, have managed to fully describe the feeding mechanism of insectivorous plants.
Let’s start with the pitcher plant. According to recent research, the pitcher plant makes use of rim in order to trap its prey. The surface must always be wet for the plant to catch anything. However, if the surface becomes dry, the plant will be unable to catch anything. And we must bear in mind that the plant can only open and close its mouth a couple of times before it dies, so energy conservation is an essential aspect.
Scientists have uncovered the truth behind carnivorous plants. According to their observation, each pitcher plant has a hunting-resting cycle. During the hot season, the pitcher plants are capable of shutting down for eight hours at a time. This ensures that the surface remains moist and untouched by the hot sun.
In the case of Venus fly traps, scientists have discovered that even though the plant does not possess a brain, it sure known how to do the math.
As stated before, the plant uses a series of highly sensitive hairs in order to detect if an insect landed on it. If the plant detects something on it, then it automatically closes the mouse-trap-like jaw, trapping the poor creature inside. When an insect land on a Venus fly trap’s sensitive surface, it triggers an electrical jolt. It takes the plant just a few seconds to detect if something landed an on. Then the plant sends an electrical signal which makes its mouth close. This signal is called an action potential.
According to the scientists, the plant needs no more than seconds to detect if a fly landed on it, to determine what kind of fly it is and to take action.