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Carnivorous plants use many different complex mechanisms to thrive in places that are poor in nutrients: by using trapping systems to lure in, trap, kill, and eat small prey animals, and then reap the bounty of nutrients. Some of these traps can actually move, and it’s these ‘active’ traps that are currently being researched by the Plant Biomechanics Group of the Botanic Garden Freiburg, led by Prof. Thomas Speck.
In new research, the trapping action of the particular sundew Drosera glanduligera has been seen in great detail for the first time, this was done in close collaboration with the private cultivators Siegfried and Irmgard Hartmeyer. The incredible capture mechanism has now been thoroughly investigated biophysically, and the findings of that research has just been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“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. Additionally 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. It could be shown that the snap-tentacles catapult incautious prey animals onto the sticky trap leaf, and that this sundew hence possesses a combined catapult-flypaper-trap.”
“Carnivorous plants enjoy great popularity worldwide. Although the trapping mechanism described here can surely be termed one of the most spectacular plant movements, only few persons will be able to see it with their own eyes due to the very tough cultivation and short life span of the plant.”
Image Credits: Simon Poppinga, Siegfried Richard Heinrich Hartmeyer, Robin Seidel, Tom Masselter, Irmgard Hartmeyer, Thomas Speck. Catapulting Tentacles in a Sticky Carnivorous Plant. PLOS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e45735 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045735