MPI f. Devolopmental Biology
Shown is one example (inset) from the five different mouths of
Edible oyster mushrooms have a dark secret, reports a new study published in PLOS Biology: They trap and digest spiders and roundworms. Human proteins work in a similar way, by punching into cells, but they do so for good: to protect us by destroying infected or cancerous cells and bacteria. Along with this fascinating news, we present a number of other plants that -- if able to order pizza -- would choose the meat lovers over the veggie special. Sitting down? Let's check them out.VIDEO: How Can Something Be A Plant and an Animal?
After tiny hairs on a Venus flytrap are brushed by an insect, the leaves close within half a second, and digestion begins. Acids produced by glands inside the trap come into direct contact with the insect. It can take just less than a week or twice that long for the insect to decay and nutrients to be extracted. Young flytraps in warm weather digest faster. Older plants -- or a bigger insect -- require more time. The plants (
) are native U.S. residents, found only in a small area that straddles the border between North and South Carolina. And their numbers are dwindling, falling victim to poachers, habitat destruction and wildfire suppression.PHOTO: Carnivore Plant Tops BioScapes Contest
The Great sundew or English sundew (
) gets its name from the sticky beads of liquid on the leaves that look similar to morning “dew.” Sundews often share their habitat with the Pitcher Plant, another species of carnivorous plant (tough place to be a fly). The sundew has glands that excrete enzymes to digest its prey. The nutrient mix that results is absorbed via leaf surfaces and can then be used by the rest of the sundew.VIDEO: Plants Can Hear You
Pitcher plants use a clever strategy to capture prey: They switch off their wet, slippery pitfall traps for part of the day so that scout ants can bring mates to the trap, which is by that point wet again and waiting.BLOG: Carnivorous Plant Is Clever Even Without a Brain
The pitcher plant gets its name from the large empty structure that holds the digestive enzymes that churn up its fly meals and is covered by a waxy lid.VIDEO: How Sugars Help Plants Tell Time
Alexander Schmidt/University of Gottingen
Rare fossils of a carnivorous plant have been found preserved in a piece of Baltic amber. The fossil may be an early member of a family of carnivorous plants that trap insects on sticky leaves that act like fly paper and relies on resident symbiotic insects to digest its hapless prey.NEWS: Carnivorous Plant Fossil Trapped in Amber
A new species of roundworm found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean has five different specialized "faces" it can develop.
The worm, Pristionchus borbonicus, was discovered by scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology. It lives inside of fig plants, and at first the find had the researchers thinking they were looking at five different species, because the mouth parts of each were so distinct.
It took sequencing of the animals’ genomes to confirm the animals with the different mouth forms were all the same species.
What accounts for the multiple faces? The scientists say the creatures are an extreme example of evolutionary divergence, and the animals simply have the mouth they need based on available food supply within the fig's ecosystem.
“The different mouth forms of Pristionchus borbonicus that we have found now are specialized for the preferred intake of bacteria, yeasts or other roundworms. So, obviously they occupy different ecological niches within the fig,” said co-research-lead Ralf Sommer in a release.
The different mouth forms allow the species to “exploit a large food spectrum and efficiently buffer fluctuations in the availability of a certain resource,” Sommer added.
The tiny worms travel to new fig flowers on pollinating fig wasps, and it was already known that Pristionchus had two different mouth forms – a short, wide, single-toothed variant that’s good for predatory behavior; and a long, narrow mouth suitable for grazing on bacteria.
The researchers said they found similar worms in figs in Vietnam and South Africa, and that the creature's association with figs can be considered widespread. Next they plan to return to Reunion Island in search of new figs and worms.