Researchers reveal how an insect-eating plant uses rain energy to power its traps

Graphic showing mechanisms of Nepenthes gracilis. Credit: Anne-Kristin Lenz

Scientists at the University of Bristol have uncovered the deadly workings of a carnivorous plant.

In the steaming jungles of Borneo, plants have evolved innumerable tricks to help them survive and outcompete their neighbors. The Slender Pitcher Plant, Nepenthes gracilis, is amongst the most ingenious: Its elaborate cup-shaped leaves are equipped with a canopy-like hanging lid that turns into a deadly springboard for ants when it is hit by a falling rain drop.

The findings, published today in Biology Letters, reveal for the first time how the lethal spring works.

The team were surprised to find that rather than bending in the lid itself or in the narrow constriction between pitcher cup and lid, the spring is located far down in the back of the tubular pitcher wall. The off-center location at the rear of the tube has two effects.






The Slender Pitcher Plant capturing prey using raindrops. Credit: Anne-Kristin Lenz

First, it makes the spring direction-dependent, and as a result, the lid moves easily down, but not up. When a rain drop hits, the lid is accelerated quickly downwards, flicking any insects sitting on its underside into the fluid-filled trap below. On the way up though, the increased resistance of the spring slows the lid down, so that it stops moving sooner and the trap is quickly ready to capture again.

Second, the off-center spring prevents the lid from twisting or wobbling, thereby maximizing the transmission of impact energy into downward movement.

Researchers reveal how an insect-eating plant uses rain energy to power its traps
The Slender Pitcher Plant known as Nepenthes gracilis. Credit: Dr Ulrike Bauer

Lead author Anne-Kristin Lenz of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences explained, “If you look at the pitcher shape you would assume that the deformation happens at the smallest cross section, which is the transition point from lid to pitcher tube, but in fact it also deforms further down at the back of the pitcher tube.

“Pitcher plant traps are lightweight, but sturdy. Nepenthes gracilis uses small changes in the trap shape to transmit impact energy with astounding efficiency. We can learn from these plants how to optimize structures geometrically, which could help to save material and weight, while still having a functional spring. The springboard trapping mechanism might even provide inspiration for designing new mechanical devices for harvesting energy from rain or hail.”

Researchers reveal how an insect-eating plant uses rain energy to power its traps
The Slender Pitcher Plant known as Nepenthes gracilis. Credit: Dr Ulrike Bauer

This clever use of geometry makes Nepenthes gracilis the only known plant to exploit an external energy source to achieve extremely fast movement—entirely free of metabolic costs.


New kind of plant movement discovered in a carnivorous pitcher plant


More information:
Pitcher geometry facilitates extrinsically powered ‘springboard trapping’ in carnivorous Nepenthes gracilis pitcher plants, Biology Letters (2022). royalsocietypublishing.org/doi … .1098/rsbl.2022.0106

Provided by
University of Bristol


Citation:
Researchers reveal how an insect-eating plant uses rain energy to power its traps (2022, August 2)
retrieved 2 August 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-reveal-insect-eating-energy-power.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

For all the latest Science News Click Here 

 For the latest news and updates, follow us on Google News

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! TheDailyCheck is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected] The content will be deleted within 24 hours.