Plants are fed, sometimes amazing things. Scientists have recently discovered a small flowering plant that grows in sandy soils of Brazil, which catches and eats a nematode or roundworm their sticky leaves that grow under the ground.
"This is a prime example of how plants, while in search of food and water, develop interesting mechanisms, adapting, so to the extreme conditions of their environment" - said Rafael Oliveira (Rafael Oliveira), Professor of Botany, State University of Campinas in Sao Paulo , who described the plant in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The plant, called Philcoxia minensis, lives in a large sandy soil environmental Cerrado region, located in the tropical savanna region in Brazil. Besides the usual leaves that grow on the stem of a plant and use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into sugars in Philcoxia also have a whole underground network of small leaves, each about the size of a pinhead, are capable of absorbing sunlight through the white sandy soil.
However, these leaves are ground and other purposes: it contains glands secreting sticky mucus that captures small worms and starts digesting blocked.
To check whether the plant digests the worm or just build traps to create a larger amount of organic material in the soil, scientists "fed" plant nematodes grown in the laboratory. Then they examined the voracious plant leaves and found that the worms were actually internalized enzymes, and not decomposed under the influence of microbes in the soil.
Oliveira first learned about Philcoxia from a colleague who visited a remote area where it grows "predator" and later described this unusual plant with underground leaves. The discovery became a kind of appeal to conservation in the Cerrado, which is one of the 34 regions teeming with biodiversity. He noted that most of the measures aimed at the preservation of plants and animals so far taken relatively rain forests, and other fascinating ecosystems like the Cerrado undeservedly been neglected.
Carnivorous plants are often found in environments with stringent conditions, with a small amount of nutrients, which they make up for the deficit in protein, eating insects and even small rodents, when it comes to the "predatory" large plants in the form of a pitcher. "Carnivorous plants like orchids are of great interest to researchers," - said Aaron Ellison (Aaron Ellison), a researcher at Harvard University. "I suspect that the world can be found more than 600 plants of this species."
On the other hand, as noted by Ellison, almost all plants obtain nutrients from organic material. Just do not all catch and digest it. "There is, of course, and many other plants with modified underground leaves that are carnivorous, in a sense, some of them eat protozoa, others eat of zooplankton or small insects" - said Ellison. The researcher noted that the opening of another carnivorous plant that has the ability to catch and eat nematodes with their sticky leaves, is very important for natural history.