Carnivorous plants catapult prey with snap-tentacles

Last Updated: Saturday, September 29, 2012 - 18:53

Washington: Carnivorous plants feature complex mechanisms to survive in habitats poor in nutrients, possessing trapping systems that help them lure, catch, kill, and digest small prey animals, according to a new study.

The animals, mainly insects, take up the resulting nutrients.

Traps that move are termed `active`, and such active systems are currently being investigated in the Plant Biomechanics Group of the Botanic Garden Freiburg, led by Professor Thomas Speck.

In the project of Simon Poppinga, the researchers show for the first time the trapping action of the particular sundew Drosera glanduligera, which was accomplished in close collaboration with the private cultivators Siegfried and Irmgard Hartmeyer.

Sundews are commonly known for their trap leafs being covered with sticky tentacles to which small prey animals stick to and become wrapped within minutes up to hours.

The Round-Leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia, which is native to nutrient-poor bogs also in the Black Forest, possesses such a flypaper-trap.

In addition to these glue-tentacles, Australian Drosera glanduligera features non-sticky snap-tentacles that bend towards the trap centre within 75 milliseconds after mechanical stimulation, which is faster than the snap-trapping action of the famous Venus Flytrap.

The function of these tentacles was subject to speculation until now. The snap-tentacles catapult incautious prey animals onto the sticky trap leaf, and sundew hence possesses a combined catapult-flypaper-trap.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.


First Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012 - 12:52

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