Monday, December 7, 2009

Carnivorous Tomatoes and Passive Consumption

"Feed me Seymour!" While compiling a report on carnivorous plants to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth, researchers at the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew have made a shocking discovery that many common plant species are, in fact, carnivorous. Unlike many familiar carnivorous plants such as the infamous venus fly-trap and the pitcher plant which are highly specialized and actively catch and consume prey, many other plants consume prey through more passive means. For instance, many common varieties of the tomato plant are covered in thick sticky hairs that will catch and contain small aphids and other insects.
However, lacking an external apparatus to consume the trapped insect, it has been found that the plant will wait for the insect to decompose and fall to the ground, fertilizing the soil. According to the report:
Domestic varieties of tomatoes and potatoes retain the ability to trap and kill small insects with their sticky hairs and are likely to absorb the nutrients through their roots when the animals decay and fall to the ground.
Among other common plant species found to behave in a similar way are several different varieties of potatoes, ornamentals, and even the petunia. It is interesting to note the long-term strategy of the plants. Where most carnivours are documented as predators who hunt/trap their prey to consume it immediately, this discovery shows that some carnivors will actually invest in a long-term solution that works through improving the local environment. While most predators ingest prey and benefit exclusively from the meal, the predator that lacks an instrument to intake directly must enrich the soil and only benefit indirectly. This idea of passive consumption is a philosophy that could find potential in other fields of science or development. Could the construction industry or energy producing sectors benefit from a philosophy of long-term passive consumption? It seems plausible that more localized long-term indirect investments could help to produce better yields not just for the industry, but also for connected economies and environments.

Seen on The Independent.
Venus Fly Trap photo via Warped Photos Blog.
Movies to see: Little Shop of Horrors and Day of the Triffids.

1 comment:

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