27 September 2012

Carnivorous Sundew Plant Drosera Glanduligera Use Tentacles To Capture Prey

Plants that source its nutrients from insects and other animals are carnivorous plants. These plants live in areas where the soil lacks the proper nutrients, such as nitrogen, necessary to grow. Instead of deriving these nutrients from the soil, these plants have adapted to capturing and consuming nearby organisms such as insects and arthropods for it.

They consume the prey by secreting digestive enzymes to break it down to the basic components and absorb the available nutrients.

There are around 630 species of true carnivorous plants and another 300 that show some of its characteristics.

Carnivorous plants capture prey using biological traps. These traps can be passive or active traps. Passive traps such as the "flypaper" plants trap foraging insects and arthropods in mucous. There are active traps such as snap traps that operates on a mechanism similar to a rat trap. Snap trap plants uses acid which allows its cells to expand and bend which helps it capture and digest its prey.

Despite the fact that these plants capture and digest prey for nutrients, they still require basic plant necessities such as soil, water, and sunlight. Carnivorous plants rarely die from not catching any prey.

Recent studies show that secretions of carnivorous plants can be used in the development of better anti-fungal medication.

Touch-sensitive tentacles catapult prey into carnivorous plant traps

Swift predators are common in the animal world but are rare in the plant kingdom. New research shows that Drosera glanduligera, a small sundew from southern Australia, deploys one of the fastest and most spectacular trapping mechanisms known among carnivorous plants.

The study, published Sep. 26 in the open access journal PLOS ONE, is a collaboration between the Plant Biomechanics Group at the University of Freiburg and private sundew cultivators from Weil am Rhein, and provides the first experimental demonstration of fast-moving snap tentacles in sundew plants propelling prey into the plant's leaf trap, where they are captured and digested. The authors also provide a biophysical explanation for the quick motion of these touch-sensitive tentacles.

Video: Carnivorous Plant Drosera Glanduligera Use Tentacles To Capture Insect

Glue-covered tentacles and leaf traps in sundew species work like flypaper to trap insects, but this is the first study to show how fast-acting 'snap' tentacles are involved in prey capture. The researchers found that insects walking on the snap tentacles trigger a touch-sensitive catapult action, propelling prey onto the nearby glue tentacles. Glue tentacles then gradually move the prey down to the leaf trap for digestion and assimilation.

The authors suggest that these catapulting snap tentacles could help increase the reach of a leaf trap beyond just the glue tentacles, and perhaps allow the plant to capture larger insects that may be strong enough to struggle free of the glue tentacles alone. Catapulting prey towards the center of the plant could also improve digestion of the insect and prevent theft of the captured prey by other predators.

"Such plants are of particular interest to plant biologists because of their sophisticated and complex structural and mechanical adaptations to carnivory", says Thomas Speck, lead author on the study.


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