These carnivorous plants have always been regarded as enigmas in the scientific world. However, researchers found a few characteristics that are common to such plants regardless of their place of origin. One of the most important discoveries regarded the eating method of the plants. Researchers found that this method is common to all carnivorous plants.
Victor Albert, biologist at the University of Buffalo, discovered that the evolutionary pathway of these plants was restricted. He and his team found out that pitcher plants from Asia, Australia, and North America suffered the similar genetic changes.
The main difference between the most popular carnivorous plant Venus flytrap and pitcher plants is the way in which they catch their prey. The first one has jaws that can cut the prey, while the other attracts insects within its leaves and traps them inside.
The unlucky insects that get caught by pitcher plants cannot escape. The leaves create a cup that contains a liquid that can break the exoskeleton and flesh of the insect.
Such a behavior is peculiar for a plant, since animals are the ones that consume plants. Thus, the scientists wanted to find out how these plants came to follow such an evolution pathway.
They found that certain genes in the leaf that formed the cup are responsible with this trapping “instincts”. Also, they looked at the enzymes and proteins that were present in the killer liquid. They discovered that the liquid in all three types of pitcher plants (Asian, American, and Australian) was composed of the same enzymes.
Also, the trapping genes seem to have mutated in the same way in all plants. The enzymes became so deadly to work as defense mechanisms for the plants. The evolution of all three plants was oriented towards defense against diseases, herbivorous insects, or other possible threats.
This theory makes sense when it is compared to results from previous studies on Venus flytrap. Those studies also showed that the plant developed carnivore behavior as a defense mechanisms against herbivores and as a response to the harsh environment where it lived.
Now, the researchers want to perform deeper analyses of the plants to see if they share other similarities apart from the evolutionary pathways.
Image Source: Geograph