A new study from the University if Bristol and the University of Cambridge, U.K. has found that a tropical carnivorous plant from Borneo can switch off their trap. This enables them to attract more kill.
Biologists discovered that the insect-eating plant can frequently take advantages of its natural surroundings and of the weather, accommodating the physical proprieties of their traps which helps them to catch more prey. So, instead of eating one insect at a time, the plant can devour a multitude of ants in one meal.
The Asian carnivorous species of plant from Borneo is called a pitcher plant, having its name given after their cup-shaped traps for the insects, that resemble a pitcher.
Ants and other insects are easily trapped by the plant thanks to the plant’s margins that become wet and very slippery. When the prey walks on the plant, its death becomes inevitable as they automatically fall into the plant’s pitfall.
Depending on the season, the plant changes its eating habit. In the hot, dry, sunny weather, the surface of the plant dries up and insects are free to climb on it. During this season, the plant feeds itself with individual insects. The voracious vegetation seems to have a mind of its own: it doesn’t kill the first ant that discovers it. The first ant is usually a scout for the entire colony and after feeding of the plant’s nectar, it goes back and gives information about the plant’s whereabouts to other of its kind. By the time the ants return in bigger numbers, the plant has made its pitfall slippery. The ants then become easy prey as they walk unknowingly directly into the trap.
Therefore, it seems the carnivorous plant has an entire strategy planned out.
The plant secretes sweet nectar that ensures that its surface becomes wet through condensation at lower humidity levels, thus it can control its slipperiness.
The pitcher plant developed its unique feeding method through evolution and natural selection. The Asian carnivorous plant is generally found in habitats very low on nutrients. This is why it is believed the plant developed its characteristics and has resorted to eating insects. Other plants that grow in such habitats are known to being able to attract smaller-sized animals and feed off their feces. Worldwide, there are more than 600 different species of carnivorous plants known.
Image Source: Hawar Islands