Venus flytraps have fascinated pretty much whoever came in contact with them ever since they were discovered. Even Charles Darwin, known for speeding up the extinction of the Galapagos turtle by eating 40 of the animals on his way back home, said that it’s one of the most wonderful plants in the world. And according to a new study from the University of Würzburg, the Venus flytrap is an effective killer due to its counting skills.
What? A plant can count? That can’t be right
And yet it is.
A team of researchers from the University of Würzburg recently investigated the processes occurring during a Venus flytrap’s feeding time, and it’s nothing short of amazing.
Not only does the plant know how to count, but it is also designed for maximum efficiency, allowing little to no energy to be lost.
First of all, as you most likely know, the Venus flytrap’s… trap has a large number of tiny hairs around the mouth-looking part.
Touching these little hairs is what triggers the eating process. But what’s really interesting about it is how the plant knows when there’s actually something to eat.
Five touches of the plant’s sensory hairs is usually what gets insects to be consumed by the only carnivorous plant.
Remember when I said how efficient the plant is? One touch does nothing, so as not to close because of a drop of water or something similarly unappetizing.
The second drop will cause water to go through the plant, closing the “mouth”. Technically, you could just spend a few hours to a day in the plant’s mouth, waiting for it to open, and you will be ok as long as you don’t touch another hair.
A third touch will start preparing the digestive juices, while five will trigger the digestive juices to flow. Any further touches will just send more juice to the closed mouth of the plant, as the flytrap will assume it caught bigger prey.
The Venus flytrap asphyxiates, dissolves, repeats
This is where the gruesome part begins.
First of all, as the plant closes and fills up with digestive juices, it becomes air-tight, doing the insect a favor and allowing it to drown before the juices become acidic. This is exactly what happens a few minutes after the juices start flowing, as they reach a pH of 2.
It takes several days to a week to digest the insect, and the plant’s efficiency is also obvious in this case.
It only produces enough juice to take dissolve the prey, as with the help of the chemicals in the mouth it can tell exactly how long it takes for the insect to be dissolved.
It then repeats the process, every trap being able to consume 3-5 prey insects before being replaced.
Image source: Flickr