Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ants aquaplaning on a pitcher plant: Venezuelan pitcher plant uses wettable hairs to make insects slip into its deadly traps

Date:
December 18, 2012
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that an insect-trapping pitcher plant in Venezuela uses its downward pointing hairs to create a 'water slide' on which insects slip to their death.

An insect-trapping pitcher plant in Venezuela uses its downward pointing hairs to create a 'water slide' on which insects slip to their death, new research reveals.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Cambridge

An insect-trapping pitcher plant in Venezuela uses its downward pointing hairs to create a 'water slide' on which insects slip to their death, new research reveals. The research was published December 19, in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Hairs on plants, called trichomes, are typically used to repel water. However, the Cambridge researchers observed that the hairs on the inside of Heliamphora nutans pitcher plants were highly wettable, prompting them to test whether this phenomenon is related to the trapping of insects.

They found that wetting strongly enhanced the slipperiness of the trap and increased the capture rate for ants almost three-fold -- from 29 per cent when dry to 88 per cent when wet. Upon further examination, they found that the wetting affected the insects' adhesive pads while the directional arrangement of the hairs was effective against the claws.

Dr Ulrike Bauer, lead author of the paper from the University of Cambridge, said: "When the hairs of the plant are wet, the ants' adhesive pads essentially aquaplane on the surface, making the insects lose grip and slip into the bowl of the pitcher. This is the first time that we have observed hairs being used by plants in this way, as they are typically used to make leaves water repellent."

They also found that the plant used a wicking method during dryer times to pull moisture from the bowl of the pitcher up to the hairy trapping surface, enabling them to capitalise on this aquaplaning effect even when there is no rain.

Dr Bauer added: "This very neat adaptation might help the plants to maximise their nutrient acquisition."

The Heliamphora nutans pitcher plant lives on the spectacular table mountains of the Guyana Highlands in Southern Venezuela, between altitudes of 2000-2700m. The pitchers can grow up to 18 cm tall and 7 cm wide and trap mainly ants.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. U. Bauer, M. Scharmann, J. Skepper, W. Federle. 'Insect aquaplaning' on a superhydrophilic hairy surface: how Heliamphora nutans Benth. pitcher plants capture prey. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012; 280 (1753): 20122569 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2569

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Ants aquaplaning on a pitcher plant: Venezuelan pitcher plant uses wettable hairs to make insects slip into its deadly traps." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121218203513.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2012, December 18). Ants aquaplaning on a pitcher plant: Venezuelan pitcher plant uses wettable hairs to make insects slip into its deadly traps. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121218203513.htm
University of Cambridge. "Ants aquaplaning on a pitcher plant: Venezuelan pitcher plant uses wettable hairs to make insects slip into its deadly traps." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121218203513.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins