Genetic Tidying Up Made Humped Bladderworts Into Carnivorous Plants

May 22, 2017

By Joanna Klein

Greetings, human. Have you met the humped bladderwort?

This unusual plant grows pretty, yellow flowers, and it has no roots to hold it down. To get the nutrients it needs, it spends its time floating in lakes and waterways eating miniature crustaceans, called water fleas, and other things. It operates sort of like an aquatic Venus flytrap, but a hundred times faster. It feeds by dangling tiny vacuous sacs from its stems into the water.

These bladders, just a few millimeters big (with walls only two cells thick), are normally filled with water. But when the trap is set, the plant pumps the water out, creating a vacuum and a mouth, which is covered in tiny hairs.

“When a prey animal stimulates those trigger hairs — whoosh,” said Victor Albert, an evolutionary plant biologist at the State University of New York, University at Buffalo. The bladderwort can trap dinner in less than a millisecond.

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