The Venus flytrap's habit of chowing down on flies and other bugs may be centered around its ability to count — as in how many times it needs to be touched before clamping down on its prey, according to a new study
While the carnivorous plant does not apply Common Core math solutions to know when it's meal time, the Venus flytrap has the ability to keep track of the number of times it is touched, allowing it to react on a routine basis to bugs, according to The Washington Post
"Carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap . . . depend on an animal diet when grown in nutrient-poor soils," said the summary of the study released Thursday in the journal Current Biology on Cell.com.
"When an insect visits the trap and tilts the mechanosensors on the inner surface, action potentials are fired. After a moving object elicits two APs, the trap snaps shut, encaging the victim. Panicking preys repeatedly touch the trigger hairs over the subsequent hours, leading to a hermetically closed trap, which via the gland-based endocrine system is flooded by a prey-decomposing acidic enzyme cocktail," the summary continued.
Thus, Ranier Hedrich, a study author from Germany's University of Würzburg, offers one suggestion to bugs in the jaws of the Venus flytrap — don't move.
"If you just sit there and wait, the next morning, the trap will open and you can leave," Hedrich said, according to The Atlantic
. "It you panic, you induce a deadly cycle of disintegration."
The plant's triggers need to be stimulated a third time before it releases its digestive enzymes, so the more a bug struggles, the more the plant keeps pouring on, Hedrich noted.
Eventually, the bug dies of asphyxiation as the enzymes become more acidic, turning the plant into a "green stomach," the author said.
"The number of action potentials informs (the plant) about the size and nutrient content of the struggling prey," he said in a statement. "This allows the Venus flytrap to balance the cost and benefit of hunting."
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