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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
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,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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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