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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
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...
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...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Video: Drip, Drip, Snatch!
13 June 2012 5:00 pm
When it rains, sometimes it's better to just get wet—especially when staying dry could mean being digested alive. That's the hard lesson for insects hiding from showers underneath the lid of the slender pitcher plant (Nepenthes gracilis). During a downpour, the carnivorous plants, native to the Sunda region of Southeast Asia, rely on heavy raindrops crashing on top of their lids to help catapult shelter-seeking insects into their tube-shaped, fluid-filled leaves, researchers report online today in PLoS ONE. Like a diver jumping on a swimming pool springboard, the pounding raindrops create vibrations throughout the lid that launch insects off its underside and directly into an awaiting acid bath. Previously, scientists thought the lid simply prevented rainwater from diluting the leaf's digestive pool. But upon further investigation, researchers realized the structure's prey-capturing function. The underside of the lid has evolved to be covered with wax crystals which interfere with the adhesive pads found on an insect's feet. The wax crystal layer is only semislippery, so when nothing is hitting the lid, an insect has little problem crawling upside down on it, and will often do so to collect nectar. But with sudden impacts like rainfall, an insect easily loses its footing on the surface—literally falling victim to the pitcher's fatal trap.
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