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Published on April 2nd, 2013

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That Special Glow: Shedding Light on Carnivorous Plants, Nutrient-Rich Diets and Bug Eating

Plants bite back!   The plant-based diet crowd doesn’t much like this idea, and is probably not going to like today’s news either.    But National Geographic reports that certain members of plant kingdom not only bite back in self defense but actively lure  insects into their hungry mouths.   So much for plants being peaceful!

The tricks of their trade not only include bright colors, tasty nectars and seductive smells, but fluorescent emissions.    Yes, carnivorous plants — perhaps we should say insectivorous plants — have that special glow.

The glow is a survival technique for carnivorous plants that grow in nutrient-poor soils and need to improve their diets by eating bugs    Although the glow’s not visible to humans in normal light, it’s dazzling to ants and other small insects.

And insects aren’t all it attracts.  The glow can also lure small animals, encouraging them to donate some nutrient density by pooping on the plant while dining on its nectar.

Sabulai Baby, a plant biologist at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in India, and his team studied the four types of carnivorous plants:   Pitfall Traps use pools of water or nectar to drown their victims, Flypaper Traps  catch their prey with sticky substances, Snap Traps  rapidly close  in on their victims, and Bladder Traps suck them in with an internal vacuum.

Only certain members of the pitfall and snap traps have fluorescent emissions in their predatory playbook.

The findings were recently published in Plant Biology. Rajani Kurup, Anil J. Johnson, Sreethu Sankar, Abdul A. Hussain, Chellappan Sathish Kumar and Sabulal Baby, Fluorescent prey traps in carnivorous plants.  Plant Biology, February 5, 2013.

Read more about it and see more of these stunning pictures on National Geographic’s “Weird and Wild Page.”   The article is by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato and the photos courtesy of Rajani Kurup, Anil J. Johnson, Sreethu Sankar and Sabulail Baby.

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/25/carnivorous-plants-glow/

The findings were recently published in Plant Biology. Rajani Kurup, Anil J. Johnson, Sreethu Sankar, Abdul A. Hussain, Chellappan Sathish Kumar and Sabulal Baby, Fluorescent prey traps in carnivorous plants.  Plant Biology, February 5, 2013.

Thanks to my good friend and mentor Dr. Ira Fritz for sharing this fascinating news with me.   Dr. Fritz was my first core advisor at the Union Institute and University where I received my PhD in 2004.

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to That Special Glow: Shedding Light on Carnivorous Plants, Nutrient-Rich Diets and Bug Eating

  1. Hello! I’ve been reading your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the good job!

  2. Lava says:

    It’s not there. Weird and wild, but no carnivorous or fluorescent plants.

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