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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Video: Sundews Snap to Nab Insect Prey
26 September 2012 5:00 pm
Many carnivorous plants snag prey by luring them onto sticky surfaces from which there is no escape. But a common sundew (Drosera glanduligera) from southern Australia packs a one-two punch. The edges of its spoon-shaped leaves are ringed with up to 18 6-millimeter-long "tentacles" that can move four times faster than the blink of an eye; when an ant or other small insect touches a tentacle, it flicks the unsuspecting insect into the center of the leaf. There, another set of tentacles covered with glue draws the ant deep into the fold of the leaf where it is digested, researchers report today online in PLoS ONE. Just one researcher had observed this catapulting motion in the wild, and only now has it been demonstrated in the lab. The team raised sundews in a greenhouse, feeding the young plants fish flakes and, once the plants got big enough, dead fruit flies. When the plants were mature, the researchers filmed the plant's reactions to live insect visitors. They also tripped isolated tentacles with nylon thread while filming them under a microscope to see close-up how they worked. When activated, the tentacle bends at a hinge near its base; in as few as 75 milliseconds (an eye blink takes about 350 milliseconds) it catapults toward the leaf's center. It's not clear what drives this motion, but once flung, the tentacle can't unwind and be used again, the researchers report. Fortunately, sundews produce new leaves every few days, so there's always a fresh set of traps for unsuspecting prey.
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