Exploring the inner world of carnivorous plants

February 28, 2013

Professor Enrico Coen from the John Innes Centre has been awarded €2.5M EU funding to explore the growth and evolution of carnivorous plants.

"Carnivorous plants turn the normal order of nature upside down, eating animals instead of being eaten by them," said Karen Lee, a researcher working on the project at the John Innes Centre.

"They present us with a fascinating example of how new shapes and structures evolve in nature."

Carnivorous plants grow cup-shaped leaves to catch their prey of insects, protozoa and even tadpoles and occasionally small mammals. The extra nutrients they acquire in this way allow them to live in nutrient-poor locations.

The JIC scientists have used 3D imaging techniques to give an inside view of these remarkable leaf structures. This is part of a new project to convey the inner world of plants through new imaging methods.

The carnivorous habit and the leaf shapes needed to trap prey have evolved repeatedly in independent orders of flowering plants. This suggests that relatively simple changes might be behind the evolution this complex form.

"To understand the origin of such forms, we need to know how they develop and how one form may be derived from another," said Lee.

The researchers in Coen's group will focus on a genus called Ultricularia, commonly known as bladderworts. They live in aquatic environments and obtain essential nutrients from water-fleas and protozoans in lieu of having roots. Leaves are shaped into vessels with a trap door and attached trigger hairs. When an animal brushes against the hairs, the door opens and the animal is sucked in and digested

Combining observations in growing plants, 3D imaging and genetic analysis, the team will gain new insights into rules of growth at cellular and tissue levels and how they are controlled genetically. The scientists will also investigate whether there are common principles between different carnivorous plants and also with other plants and even animals.
-end-


Norwich BioScience Institutes

Related Evolution Articles from Brightsurf:

Seeing evolution happening before your eyes
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg established an automated pipeline to create mutations in genomic enhancers that let them watch evolution unfold before their eyes.

A timeline on the evolution of reptiles
A statistical analysis of that vast database is helping scientists better understand the evolution of these cold-blooded vertebrates by contradicting a widely held theory that major transitions in evolution always happened in big, quick (geologically speaking) bursts, triggered by major environmental shifts.

Looking at evolution's genealogy from home
Evolution leaves its traces in particular in genomes. A team headed by Dr.

How boundaries become bridges in evolution
The mechanisms that make organisms locally fit and those responsible for change are distinct and occur sequentially in evolution.

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.

Paleontology: Experiments in evolution
A new find from Patagonia sheds light on the evolution of large predatory dinosaurs.

A window into evolution
The C4 cycle supercharges photosynthesis and evolved independently more than 62 times.

Is evolution predictable?
An international team of scientists working with Heliconius butterflies at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama was faced with a mystery: how do pairs of unrelated butterflies from Peru to Costa Rica evolve nearly the same wing-color patterns over and over again?

Predicting evolution
A new method of 're-barcoding' DNA allows scientists to track rapid evolution in yeast.

Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.

Read More: Evolution News and Evolution Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.