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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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ScienceShot: Snap! How Carnivorous Plants Capture Prey
19 March 2013 8:30 pm
When an insect blunders into the sticky tentacles of the carnivorous sundew plant, the leaf curls up into a kind of outer stomach in which the plant digests its catch. This is no mere reflex but a complex chemical system of capturing and devouring live prey, a new study suggests. Working with the South African cape sundew (Drosera capensis, pictured), researchers analyzed the chemicals produced by plants given a meal of live fruit flies. As the leaf engulfed the fly, the plant produced compounds called jasmonates that increased along with the degree of curl, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The leaves also curled up when the investigators touched them with a liquid preparation of jasmonate. But small stones or gentle strokes with a brush had no effect, indicating that the curling response is not just a reaction to contact or movement. Nor did dead flies evoke any response (inset). However, crushed dead flies caused the leaves to curl up—suggesting that chemicals released by trapped prey may trigger the production of jasmonates, which turn the leaf into a stomach. Many plants produce jasmonates in defense against munching insects. But that wasn't the case here; fruit flies, which eat rotting fruits and vegetables, have soft mouthparts that don't damage a sturdy, living plant. The researchers suspect that the sundew has adapted a system meant to defend against predators into one that allows the plant to become a predator itself.
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