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Fossilized Carnivorous Plants

January 23rd, 2015

 Fossilized Carnivorous Plants

The first thing that comes to mind for most people when thinking of a carnivorous plant is a Venus flytrap. However, Venus flytraps are not the only type of Carnivorous plants that have lived on Earth. But until recently, not much was known about carnivorous plants which lived in the past. Human scientists only just discovered a pair of amber-encased leaves which revealed some of the secrets of how exactly carnivorous plants from the past really worked.

Originally alive thirty-five to forty-seven million years ago, this special type of plant lived in the area that we now call Russia. Scientists first classified this plant as a type of “Roridula plant”, as the fossilized leaves looked very similar to carnivorous Roridula plants that are still alive today. In order to survive, the plant focused on surviving by feeding on small insects. In order to lure the insects on the leaves, this carnivorous plant secreted a sticky fluid through tentacles placed throughout its leaves. Any small insect that touched the sticky fluid would immediately be stuck in place. What’s interesting here is that this plant didn’t simply eat the stuck insects. Roridula plants actually don’t make their own digestive enzymes, unlike other carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants or Venus flytraps. Instead, the Roridula plant would wait for a special type of insect, called “Roridula bugs” to eat the caught prey. The special species of insects are able to produce a slimy substance that lets them live on Roridula plants without getting trapped. After the unique insect would feast upon the stuck victim, the carnivorous Roridula plant would then feed off of nutrients excreted in the Roridula bugs feces.

In Germany, a group of several botanists and geologists from many different research institutes are still studying the amber-encased leaves. They believe that it was originally fossilized because a pair of the Roridula leaves must have gotten caught in tree sap which both killed the leaves as well as preserved them. They have reported that other organic material is still attached to the leaves, helping them even further their amount of research. Paleontologists have found different types of other carnivorous plant seeds, but there hasn’t been any actual evidence of how carnivorous plants actually trap their prey. It’s almost fascinating seeing the different forms of evolution and how simple plants have adapted over such long years. It makes you wonder how much plants will continue to mutate in the future, and how it will affect our environment.

Article via http://www.popsci.com/here-science-first-fossil-carnivorous-plant-trap

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