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article imageCarnivorous plant found to rapidly 'catapult' prey with tentacles

By Leigh Goessl     Sep 27, 2012 in Science
A group of scientists in Germany have released a study about a carnivorous plant, native to southern Australia, that outlines how it captures its prey.
Scientists have known for decades that the Drosera glanduligera, a type of sundew plant, is carnivorous, but what wasn't known is how the plant managed to snag its prey.
In a paper published this week in the online journal PLos One, researchers explain how the Drosera glanduligera traps its food. The team of researchers used microscopes and high-speed cameras to document how the plants catch prey.
"Although the fast snap tentacles were basically known for decades, they received only very little attention from the scientific community," said researcher Thomas Speck, a biophysicist at the University of Freiburg in Germany, reported Live Science.
In their study technique, researchers grew their own plants and fed them fruit flies while filming their plants' behaviors. What they discovered was the plants have two types of tentacles, one set that is "sticky", and the other "non-stick". The tentacles without the sticky substance lure and "snap" prey, while the "sticky" set draws the insect into the center to ensure it cannot get away as it is eaten.
Scientists say the Drosera glanduligera only takes a fraction of a second to jump to action and catapult its prey with the snap tentacles.
Smithsonian Magazine reported, "It might not look like much, but it’s one of the fastest trapping mechanisms known in the plant kingdom."
It is also said to be faster and more complex than other carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap.
"This is the first detailed documentation and analysis of such catapult-flypaper traps in action and highlights a unique and surprisingly complex mechanical adaptation to carnivory," the team of researchers wrote.
While Drosera glanduligera is fast, Live Science reported that Utricularia plant is faster.
Scientists plan to do more research on how carnivorous plants act while "in the wild" and see more of how they entrap prey and also what types of prey they catch in their natural environments.
More about carnivorous plant, Prey, Australia, Drosera glanduligera, D glanduligera
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