Carnivorous Plants

 
 
 

Carnivorous plants are plants that derive essential nutrients from trapping and consuming prey (typically insects or other arthopods). These plants have adapted to grow in areas where the soil is poor in nutrients. Charles Darwin wrote the first book, Insectivorous Plants, about carnivorous plants in 1875. There are five orders of carnivorous plants, more than a dozen genera, and at least 583 species.

Sundews

Sundews (genera Drosera) are one of the largest groups of carnivorous plants (at least 194 species). They use glands to produce mucilage to trap and digest their prey. Other glands are used to absorb the digested nutrient soup. The mucilage is secreted at the end of small tentacles, which can also move to help trap the prey and bring it into contact with more of the absorptive glands (an example is shown in the box below). Sundews can be found on every continent of the world except for Antarctica.

Drosera capensis
Drosera capensis
Drosera tokaiensis
Drosera tokaiensis

Venus Flytraps

Venus flytraps are a single species (Dionaea muscipula), although there are many cultivated varieties. Venus flytraps are native to the southeastern United States. Tiny trigger hairs on the inside of the "traps" signal the presence of prey, causing the traps to clamp shut quickly on the hapless intruder. After closing, the trap is hermetically sealed, forming a "stomach" where digestion and subsequent absorption occurs.

Dionaea muscipula
Dionaea muscipula

Pitcher Plants

My pitcher plants are part of the genus Sarracenia which is composed of eleven species which are native to North America. The leaves of these plants have evolved into funnels that can trap insects and other prey. Prey is attracted by sweet secretions, and slippery secretions at the plant's rim help insects to fall inside. The inside surface has a waxy coating as well as downward-pointing hairs which make retreat of the insect difficult, if not impossible. At the bottom of the pitchers, a pool of liquid containing digestive enzymes drowns the prey and proceeds with digestion and absorption of the nutrients.

Sarracenia purpurea
Sarracenia purpurea
Sarracenia leucophylla
Sarracenia leucophylla

Sundew Capturing a Small Cricket

Stage 1
The cricket is trapped by the sticky mucilage
Stage 2
The tentacles wrap around the cricket, preventing escape
Stage 3
The leaf begins to fold around the cricket
Stage 4
The cricket is now tightly enclosed by the leaf, and digestion and absorption begins
 
 
 
 

Tropical Cockroaches

 
 
 

Blaberus discoidalis, also called the Discoid Cockroach, is a cockroach native to Central America. These roaches can grow up to 2" in size, and their hindlegs are useful for recording action potentials. Although they have wings, they cannot fly, nor can they climb smooth surfaces (such as glass or plastic), making them easy to care for in captivity.

Discoid roaches are detritivores, feeding on vegetation and decaying animal matter. Adults live between 8-10 months, and nymphs take 4-5 months to reach adulthood. Discoid roaches are oviviviparous. Females will lay an egg case (ootheca), retract it internally, and then give birth to live young.

Blaberus discoidalis adult
Blaberus discoidalis adult
Blaberus discoidalis juvenile
Blaberus discoidalis juvenile (nymph)
 
 
 
 

Banded Crickets

 
 
 

I also maintain a colony of Gryllodes sigillatus, also called the banded cricket. This is a tropical house cricket native to Southwestern Asia. Crickets can be used for electrophysiological experiments, behavioral experiments, and as an organism for investigating the gut-brain axis.

Gryllodes sigillatus
Gryllodes sigillatus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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