At Five You’re Dinner

jan282016One two, in You Flew. Three four, I wait for more, but at five you’re dinner.

Deep in the bogs in North and South Carolina grows the infamous meat-eating Venus flytrap. These plants are known for their carnivorous diets and have inspired many works of science fiction, but this week we learned a little more about them. A team of biologists have shown that Venus flytraps count to five before making something their meal. This helps the plant avoid wasting precious energy and resources on stimuli or “touches” that may come from something inedible like a raindrop. Previous research had shown that the trap would snap shut after two touches on micro-hairs inside the plant, but they wanted to know what happened after the trap closed. So in the new study the team of scientists used an electrode that simulated an insect’s touches, and tested the plant’s responses. At one touch the plant stayed open, at two the plant closed the trap, and at five touches the flytrap began producing the stomach enzymes (proteins that help reactions occur) to digest their meal.

The idea of plants being able to count is fascinating, and I will be interested to see if there are any other species that also have this Sci-Fi-worthy skill!

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Jan 28, 2016


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