How plants develop taste for flesh?

Carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap lure and devour insects to get extra nutrition. But how they managed to develop the complex and energy-intensive structures needed to catch their prey remains a mystery.

The problem is that for natural selection to result in plants evolving into carnivores, every small change has to be beneficial in terms of survival.

A new study has revealed that insect traps are actually more energy-efficient than botanists believed. Drs. Jim Karagatzides and Aaron Ellison of Harvard University's Harvard Forest in Petersham studied 15 different carnivorous plant species to measure the costs and benefits of this nutrition strategy.

They measured the construction cost of carbon needed to grow the trap structures and compared these against the amount of time needed to compensate for it through photosynthesis.

"The most interesting result is that carnivorous traps are 'cheap' to make (at least compared with leaves). Models of the evolution of carnivorous plants have suggested that traps should be 'expensive' structures,” Ellison said in a paper published in the American Journal of Botany.

However, despite their low cost, the payback time for the traps was pretty long, because carnivorous plants have very low rates of photosynthesis. This probably explains why there are not more of them.

Carnivorous plants live in environments like bogs that have abundant sun and water, but are low on nutrients. Getting these nutrients from insects is but one way of dealing with this. Other bog plants like blueberries, huckleberries and cranberries get help from symbiotic fungi to absorb nitrogen.

Source - RussiaToday

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