A new study has revealed how plants turned the tables on insects
Scientists at the University of Buffalo explained how nutrient-poor environments led certain plants to “turned the tables” and become the hunter.
The report explained: “To the average plant-eating human, the thought of a plant turning the tables to feast on an animal might seem like a lurid novelty.
“Now, science is showing just how remarkable these macabre traits really are.”
The study revealed how a huge variety of plants all became carnivorous in the same way: by desperately being pushed to their evolutionary limits by barren or nutrient-poor environments.
Report co-author Kenji Fukushima said: “Carnivorous plants often live in nutrient-poor environments, so the ability to trap and digest animals can be indispensable given the dearth of other sources of nourishment."
An unsuspecting bee dicing with death on a Venus flytrap
The report explained the complex evolutionary process needed to turn insects into predators to plant food.
It said they did so by "co-opting many of the same ancient proteins to create enzymes for digesting prey”.
The report expanded: “Over time, in all three species, plant protein families that originally assisted in self-defence against disease and other stresses developed into the digestive enzymes we see today, genetic clues suggest."
A deadly pitcher plant, which traps insects in a gooey, digestive liquid
This evolutionary jump has created a huge variety of hungry plants, from the infamous Venus flytrap to Pitcher plants.
Venus flytraps catch insects when their oblivious prey land on their leaves and trigger tiny hairs. Once activated, the leaves snap shut, enclosing the insect which is then slowly digested.
An insect being trapped and digested by a Venus flytrap
Pitcher plants attract and attack insects in a jarringly different manner – by luring them into a deep cavity filled with digestive, sticky liquid.
Once caught in the leafy tomb, which has slick sides which make escape almost impossible, the insects are slowly broken down and absorbed by the hungry plants.