The world's fastest carnivorous plant

Plants can't move very fast; or this has been the common assumption among biologists and common people alike. But now, researchers found a plant that defies all assumptions: it contains long tentacles that snap out, grab an insect and throw it into the plant's digestive system, all within a fraction of a second.

By looking at an Australian plant called the sundew, a research group from the University of Freiburg discovered how this tentacle-catapult system works, in a study that provides deeper insight into how carnivorous plants have evolved, and how plants can learn to adjust to poor environmental conditions. Dr. Thomas Speck and his team used a high-speed camera to record the tentacles of the southern Australia native sundew plant Drosera glanduligera in action. They found that the tentacles can extend outwards toward a passing by insect, and literally fling the insect into the plant's sticky tentacles, which will then digest the prey. The entire catapult action takes less than a tenth of a second, compared to the minutes to hours that sticky bulbs usually take to trap an insect.

The tentacles have no muscle tissue; the entire action appeared to occur by rapidly redistributing water inside each cell to create the whip-like motion. In addition, cells on one side of the tentacle became distorted during the catapulting event, which further enhanced the motion. Once a tentacle had grabbed an insect, it was discarded. Since the south Australian sundew grows very quickly, and has a large number of these tentacles, losing a handful of them does not represent a big problem.

"These catapulting snap tentacles could help increase the reach of a plant's leaf trap beyond the glue tentacles, and capture larger insects," said Dr. Speck.

Meat-eating plants (mostly dining on insects) are of keen interest to biologists. Charles Darwin called them "the most wonderful plants in the world." Aside from morbid curiosity (and the star of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors"), these plants show biologists how adaptations occur in reaction to poor soil, low nutrients, and the effects of agricultural and commercial development. In the case of the Australian sundew, they also are helping blur the line between plants and animals.

For a video, go to
For the research report, go to 

Add comment
Smile Sad Huh Laugh Mad Tongue Crying Grin Wink Scared Cool Blush Unsure Shocked Confused Thumbs up Thumb down

Scientists Explain Why Snails Have A Twisted Shell

Snails, as some other gastropods, have coiled shells, Dpp protein seems to be the clue
Molecules called morphogens control the shapes of organisms. One morphogen, Dpp, makes most snail shells coil to the right as described in a recent...

Researchers Create a Hangover-Free, Rehydrating Beer

Source: Wikipedia.
Researchers have crafted a new breed of beer, containing electrolytes like those found in sport drinks, decreasing the risk of dehydration (and...

Our Alien Gold

Source: Wikipedia.
    All the gold on earth is alien. Every atom of the precious metal probably came to us from violent collisions of dying stars, according to a team...

An Unlikely New Home For Insects

Credit:  Robert Tropek
Fly ash deposits, by-products of coal combustion produced around energy power stations, have been found to serve as an alternative home for many...

A single gene for claustrophobia?

Source: Wikipedia.
Do you panic when you are in a small space? Do you sweat, or shake; does your heart pound? A study in the March issue of Translational Psychiatry...

Snail reveals ancient human migration routes

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
The genetic similarity between one variety of common garden snails found in Ireland and the Pyrenees, in Southern Europe, may be explained by human...

Science Explains Why You Forgot To Take Out The Trash

A familiar voice is usually recognized between other voices, but as we age, maybe we can select not to hear them
It's often nice to hear a familiar voice, but sometimes we're also guilty of tuning out wives, husbands, parents and even some friends. It turns out...

Chaos, Not Order, Spark Creativity

Being neat and tidy has always been associated with order, tradition and general good sense. But being a slob may have a worse reputation than it...

Even in the Brain, Practice Makes Perfect

Extensively practicing a given motor skill reduces metabolic activity in the cerebral cortex responsible for managing that skill
As any athlete or musician can attest, practicing makes a difficult task easier. In fact, repeating an activity can take us to a point where we a no...

Celestial Music, at your fingertips

Crab Nebula, Wikipedia.
In the renaissance an scholar was considered educated only after mastering the so-called "quadrivium", which consisted of four subjects: arithmetic,...

Social networking makes lemurs smarter

Ringed-tail lemurs
Human evolution has been marked by two major milestones: an increase in brain size and the development of social groups. Many scientists have assumed...

The Mind Can Fly a Helicopter

Our mind can control an external device
A helicopter is a rather complicated craft to fly--it doesn't really glide, and moves by controlling the pitch and power of its rotor blades. Imagine...

Advertise with The Munich Eye
Allianz - Munich financial services Web Site Optimisation