Journal Article

Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’

Elżbieta Król, Bartosz J. Płachno, Lubomír Adamec, Maria Stolarz, Halina Dziubińska and Kazimierz Trębacz

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 1, pages 47-64
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr249
Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
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Background

A plant is considered carnivorous if it receives any noticeable benefit from catching small animals. The morphological and physiological adaptations to carnivorous existence is most complex in plants, thanks to which carnivorous plants have been cited by Darwin as ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’. When considering the range of these adaptations, one realizes that the carnivory is a result of a multitude of different features.

Scope

This review discusses a selection of relevant articles, culled from a wide array of research topics on plant carnivory, and focuses in particular on physiological processes associated with active trapping and digestion of prey. Carnivory offers the plants special advantages in habitats where nutrient supply is scarce. Counterbalancing costs are the investments in synthesis and the maintenance of trapping organs and hydrolysing enzymes. With the progress in genetic, molecular and microscopic techniques, we are well on the way to a full appreciation of various aspects of plant carnivory.

Conclusions

Sufficiently complex to be of scientific interest and finite enough to allow conclusive appraisal, carnivorous plants can be viewed as unique models for the examination of rapid organ movements, plant excitability, enzyme secretion, nutrient absorption, food-web relationships, phylogenetic and intergeneric relationships or structural and mineral investment in carnivory.

Keywords: Carnivorous plants; model plants; traps; rapid organ movements; gland functioning; nutrient absorption; action potentials; plant excitability; plant indicators

Journal Article.  11866 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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