Investigating the Venus Flytrap’s Speedy Snap
Plants aren’t typically known for their speed, but the carnivorous Venus flytrap can close its jaw-like leaves in the blink of an eye. Charles Darwin once referred to the Venus flytrap as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” But despite the plant’s notoriety, its closing mechanism remains a mystery 250 years after its discovery.
Biophysicists at the Ecole Polytechnique Universitaire de Marseille, in France, are investigating the cellular process behind the Venus flytrap’s rapid response to prey. The researchers have already thrown out one popular explanation for the Venus flytrap’s quick motion, that water movement within the plant makes its jaw snap. They announced this finding in San Diego at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics.
“This is the first time someone has looked at how Venus flytraps move on the cellular level,” said biophysicist and lead researcher Mathieu Colombani. “We are looking for an explanation that’s both biologically and physically possible.”
Venus flytraps are native to the coastal bogs of North and South Carolina. The bogs’ soil lacks the proper nutrients — particularly nitrogen and phosphorus — for plants to grow. The plant manages to survive in this tough environment by trapping and digesting insects in order to fulfill their nutritional needs. [continue reading] | image: Mathieu Colombani (via Inside Science)