Research

Plant Week: Bladderworts

Carnivorous plants live in nutrient-poor environments, where clever techniques are necessary to keep their prey from getting away. The aquatic bladderwort family nabs their prey through ultra-fast suction. This starts with a slow phase (top) in which water is pumped out of the trap. Because the internal pressure is lower than the external hydrostatic pressure, this compresses the walls of the trap, and it leaves the trap’s door narrowly balanced on the edge of stability. A slight perturbation to the trigger hairs around the door will cause it to buckle. 

That’s when things get fast. As the door buckles and the trap expands to its original volume, water gets sucked in, pulling whatever prey was nearby with it. The door reseals as the pressure inside and outside the trap equalizes, and, in only a couple milliseconds total, the bladderwort has its snack. It secretes digestive enzymes to break down what it’s caught, and over many hours, it pumps out the trap to reset it. (Image and research credit: O. Vincent et al.; submitted by David B.)

All this week, FYFD is celebrating Plant Week. Check out our previous post on how dandelion seeds fly tens of kilometers.

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