Carnivorous plants are out for bloodPosted: April 27, 2011
A terrific article describing the various and sundried mechanisms used by carnivorous plants, presented with a certain dry sense of humor (my favorite kind). Courtesy of EarthSky.org:
What made these plants scorn decency and natural order and adopt such an aberrant lifestyle? Well, like everything else out there, they’re just trying to get by. As with their more traditional relatives, carnivorous plants fuel themselves by via photosynthesis. This process requires not only sunlight, but also water, carbon dioxide (obtained from the atmosphere), and various elemental nutrients such as nitrogen. Normally, plants get these nutrients from the soil through their roots. But soil quality isn’t always that fabulous, with areas like bogs and other wetlands offering only scant quantities of nitrogen. Carnivorous plants have evolved in such environments to supplement nitrogen by eating animals (mostly insects).
But there is a trade-off to this clever adaptation. Insect consumption requires energy, both in trapping and digesting of prey, which leaves less energy for the photosynthesis that all this bug-eating is supposed to be powering. In fact, carnivorous plants photosynthesize at significantly lower rates than regular plants. Thus the second condition that favors the evolution of meat-eating in plants is ample sunlight. And indeed, the waterlogged homes of carnivorous plants are soaked in sun, allowing even the most inefficient photosynthesizers to thrive, provided they obtain those elusive nutrients.