Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant that depends on the meat of the insects. When insects crawl along the leaves of the plant, it traps them with tiny sensitive hairs on its inner surface and eats them away.
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But new research has found an amazing hunting secret of the Venus flytrap. German professor Rainer Hedrich and his colleagues wanted to know how exactly the plant decides when to keep its traps shut and produce acidic enzymes to decompose the prey. The answer is, Venus flytraps do it through counting. This meat-eating plant can count to at least five.
"The carnivorous plant Dionaea muscipula, also known as Venus flytrap, can count how often it has been touched by an insect visiting its capture organ in order to trap and consume the animal prey.” Project leader Rainer Hedrich, a professor at Universität Würzburg in Germany said.
In short, Venus flytraps are able to count how often their sensitive hairs have been touched and after five they begin to produce digestive enzymes.
To record how high the plant can count, researchers fooled the plant by emitting electric pulses and made it think that an insect has just landed on its leaves. Then, they looked at the plant's responses. Researchers found the single touch is enough to generate a response.
With first touch, plant enters a ‘ready to go’ mode. The plant closes around the prey after second touch. With third touch, the plant closes the trap tightly and generates tiny hairs again and again. Then, plant begins to produce a special touch hormone. After five triggers, glands on the inner surface of the trap prey-decomposing enzymes and transporters help to take up nutrients. Hendrich calls this process a “deadly spiral of capture and disintegration.”
“The number of action potentials informs the plant about the size and nutrient content of the struggling prey. This allows the Venus flytrap to balance the cost and benefits of hunting.” Hendrich explained.
Interestingly, researchers have found a special mark which indicates the transportation of sodium within the plant. But they are not sure what the salt does for the plant. Maybe it maintains the right balance of water inside its cells.
Next, Hendrich and his colleagues will sequence the genome of Venus flytrap which will possibly provide additional clues about plant’s sensory system and the whole mechanism of preying.
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