„Insectivorous plants – a different biology class”
'The unusual world of insectivorous plants'
Michał Słota – author of photographs and project manager
1University of Silesia in Katowice, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection,
Department of Genetics; Jagiellońska 28, 40-032 Katowice
Carnivorous beauty, Plant breeding room WBiO¦, 2011
Colourful trap, Plant breeding room WBiO¦, 2011
Description popularizing the research project
Everything invented by the man has already existed in Nature. Wings of supersonic planes are modelled on wings of birds and insects, jet engines simply mimic octopuses that swim by expelling a jet of water from a contractile mantle via a siphon, pythons and rattlesnakes had been using motion and IR sensors to detect potential prey long before the first men walked the land. Even more down to earth inventions, like flypaper, can be traced back to the original solutions created by Mother Nature.
Flypaper, a perfect trap for insects, is just one example of many ‘smart devices’ being at carnivorous plants’ disposal, helping them get extra protein with valuable nitrogen and enrich a bit their diet. Sundews, bladderworts, Venus Flytraps, and pitcher plants all grow in places poor in nutrients necessary for development. A meaty feast makes up for all the dietary deficiencies. The food helps the plant survive and produce seeds. Yet a ‘hungry’ plant will not chase a tasty fat morsel. Instead, they try to attract the fat morsels with sweet sticky liquid covering beautifully tempting leaves. Leaves they will never leave. The specialized insect catching leaves of many species of carnivorous plants take the form of pits with slippery walls, or jaw traps. They do not give the prey any chance to escape. The leaves also produce digestive enzymes dissolving tissues of the prey that in turn are absorbed by the plant.
Flypaper turns out to attract also ants, beetles, termites, cockroaches, spiders, snails and, more rarely, minute vertebrates – rodents and birds. Some carnivorous plants use tissues of other plants, falling leaves carried to the traps by the wind. It is hard to believe that the tiny plants, blooming with subtle flowers have such a ‘bloodthirsty’ strategy of survival. Apparently, humanity did not invent ‘white (or rather green) glove murders’.
One of the integral parts of scientists’ research is the aspiration to share their fascination with the subject of study with others. Without regard for the nature and object of research, the passion and enthusiasm tend to be contagious for a careful observer. In particular, the popularization of the study on the natural flora and fauna, due to the combination of knowledge about biodiversity and the affection towards nature, contribute to promoting the interest in the subject of research and environmental attitudes.
The presented material consists of a selection of photographs taken during the workshops for high school students conducted as a part of the University of Silesia promotional campaign in the academic year 2010/2011. The IKNP „Planeta” Student Group prepared laboratories and their program was focused on sharing the theoretical knowledge of the fascinating group of insectivorous plants and demonstratinglive specimens of their domestic and foreign representatives. Plants belonging to this group, exhibiting an extraordinary beauty of shape and color, are equipped with trapping organs able to attract, capture and digest a careless insect. Topics of the workshops concerned the specific adaptations and diversity of insectivorous plants, discussing the mechanisms of capturing the prey, the directions of evolution and geographical distribution of national representatives.
The presented workshops were very popular with the students from hosting schools in Chorzow, Katowice, Bytom and Piekary Slaskie, which repeatedly ordered the laboratories. The completed workshops were an excellent opportunity to conduct activities promoting environmental education initiatives and research projects carried at the University of Silesia.
Dyrektor Muzeum ¦l±skiego w Katowicach
Marszałek Województwa ¦l±skiego