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One-fourth of carnivorous plant species at risk of extinction, study finds
Swimming across a crocodile-filled river full and dodging venomous snakes in search of rare carnivorous plants is all in a day's work for Dr. Adam Cross, restoration ecologist at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Cross conducts much of his fieldwork in Western Australia's Kimberley region, where he sidesteps deadly wildlife and endures broiling 104-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in suffocating humidity in search of elusive carnivorous plants.
A quarter of the world's 860 known carnivorous plant species are at risk of extinction as a result of climate change and threats like land clearing and poaching, according to a study Cross and his colleagues recently published in Global Ecology and Conservation.
Carnivorous plants are unique because they gain nutrients from prey. They mostly lure and eat insects, though some can also derive nutrients from small animals. The popular Venus flytrap is a well-known example, luring small insects such as flies to its open leaves with a sweet nectar scent; once the fly brushes up against a trigger hair, Venus snaps the leaves shut, trapping the fly, which it then dissolves with digestive enzymes.
Sensitive and specialized, carnivorous plants typically grow in "nutrient-impoverished habitats where carnivory offers a competitive advantage," according to the Cross report.
"Carnivorous plants, more so than almost any other group of plant, occupy extremely narrow ecological niches because carnivory is basically a strategy that has evolved to allow plants to be competitive in typically nutrient-poor soils and in habitats where other plants often find it very challenging to be competitive," Cross says.
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Venus Flytraps Are Even Crazier Than We Thought
Most plants on Earth get everything they need through the ground in which they grow, rain falling from the sky, and sunlight beaming down on them from above. Some, however, have adapted to nutritional deficiencies in the soil of some regions and evolved to get those nutrients from other sources. Carnivorous plants don't eat insects just because they want to. They do it because they need to in order to survive.
One of the most famous of all carnivorous plants is the Venus flytrap. An elegantly simple plant that uses traps lined with fine hair-like fibers that snap shut as soon as it is triggered by an unassuming insect. They are remarkable plants, and new research reveals that they're even more incredible than previously thought. You see, it seems that these plants can actually generate their own magnetic field
As LiveScience reports, the study published in Scientific Reports focused on the electrical activity generated within the plant, including the signals sent by one part of the plant to another to trigger the closure of the leaf-like traps. In observing this incredible process, the researchers were able to measure a magnetic field being produced by the plant.
Biomagnetism, which is a magnetic force generated by a living thing, isn't a new concept. We know that organs like the human heart produce a very weak magnetic field, as do the brain and even the lungs. However, the amount of research into the magnetic field generated by plants is less robust, and the discovery of a magnetic field coming from a Venus flytrap begs for an explanation.
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