Halloween Highlights: Carnivorous Plants

Plants may not generally be associated with the spooky sentiments of Halloween, but put the right Hitchcock soundtrack with the video below and it could have come straight out of a Hollywood horror film.

Carnivorous plants have inspired many creative minds over time, perhaps most memorably in the cult classic, Little Shop of Horrors which featured a fictitious new hybrid that thrived only on human blood. The real plants may not be so scary to us but for insects, they’re certainly something to be wary of.

The video above  shows the particularly dramatic “active” trapping mechanism employed by one carnivorous species the Drosera glanduligera, a sundew that feeds on insects. Even the abstract of the study Catapulting Tentacles in a Sticky Carnivorous Plant conjures cryptic images:

Prey animals walking near the edge of the sundew trigger a touch-sensitive snap-tentacle, which swiftly catapults them onto adjacent sticky glue-tentacles; the insects are then slowly drawn within the concave trap leaf by sticky tentacles.

“Passive” trapping mechanisms used by other carnivorous plants can be equally creepy when documented close up (and paired with the right soundtrack). Take a look at Video S1 and S3, below, of a paper published in 2007 investigating the digestive fluid of the Nepenthes rafflesian, a pitcher plant that relies on its unique shape and a pool of  highly viscoelastic fluid to trap insects for digestion. The first video shows how easily a fly can escape a pool of water, while the second video shows the distinct advantage the digestive fluid gives the plant. Both demonstrate the classic horror film qualities science can evoke!

 

 

Citation: Poppinga S, Hartmeyer SRH, Seidel R, Masselter T, Hartmeyer I, et al. (2012) Catapulting Tentacles in a Sticky Carnivorous Plant. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45735. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045735

Citation: Gaume L, Forterre Y (2007) A Viscoelastic Deadly Fluid in Carnivorous Pitcher Plants. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1185. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001185

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