18 February 2008

Venus Flytrap

I saw an interesting toy at Target the other day, Backyard Safari's Venus Fly Trap. Sadly, the toy wasn't made because Venus Flytraps are cool plants, but is instead an interesting looking insect catcher. Supposedly you place bait in the bottom and insects fly in, and some sort of motion sensor closes the trap.

In actual Venus flytrap plants (Dionaea muscipula), the traps are modified leaves. They know to close and catch their insect prey by trigger hairs (trichomes) on the inside of the traps. Not just one touch will do it, to distinguish living prey the trichomes must be touched in succession before the trap actually closes. Carnivorous plants in general catch insects because they live in nutrient poor locations, like bogs. The insects they catch and digest provided them with much needed nitrogen. The animated gif to the left (that I found on wikipedia) shows a developing trap in time lapse (click to watch).

Oh, and while I'm on the topic, it appears there is also a Pokémon modeled after a Venus Flytrap, Carnivine. According to the Pokémon website, Carnivine "attracts prey with its sweet-smelling saliva, then chomps down".


Jessica M. Budke said...

We looked at the Venus fly trap this past semester in the Developmental Plant Morphology class for which I was the teaching assistant. Triggering the trichomes stimulates an electrochemical pulse throughout the leaf that causes loosening of the cell walls. This loosening causes the cells on the outside of the leaf to rapidly expand and close the leaf. One of the students decided to test to see if an outside electrical stimulus could trigger the leaves to close. He used a rectangular 9 volt battery and some pieces of wire. All he did was touch the wires to the leaf, without touching the trichomes and the leaf closed. It was pretty awesome to see. Dr. Jones does not think that anyone has experimentally tested that before. It was very cool to see!

Amy said...

Very cool and props to the creativity. That would make a really awesome science fair project too - to determine the electrical current necessary to trigger the traps.