Some plants use photosynthesis, while some plants have evolved to get nutrients through other means, like trapping plants. There are over 600 recognized species that categorized as carnivorous that have various ways of capturing preys, including insects and small vertebrates. Most of these carnivorous plants grow and live in soils that are lacking in nutrients, like rocky terrains or bog, therefore, they must get nutrients through other means.
Most of these carnivorous plants eat flying, foraging or crawling insects and small vertebrates. It has been noted that some of these carnivorous plants in the Tropics have captured frogs, rats or even birds. However, these “special” plants pose no danger to humans… yet! (See: Madagascan Man-Eating Tree)
Despite the myth of the Madagascan Man-Eating Tree or the 1960’s film Little Shop of Horrors, these plants are harmless to humans, primarily because of the ways they digest their prey. All carnivorous plants make their own digestive enzymes that are produced by bacterias. These digestive enzymes dissolve their prey which the plant absorbs. Some plants have been reported to trap insects and use them as helpers – as the insect lives inside the plant and eats, the insect’s faces provides a yummy dinner absorbed by the plant.
Why only these 600 species? How did these plants evolve? The evolution of these carnivorous plants is not well known, primarily due to the lack of fossils. These carnivorous plants lack rigid structures that allow for properly preserved fossilization and they don’t have much leaves per season to be possibly fossilized. Based on inferences, these carnivorous plants are characterized as angiosperm (flowering plants). These plants have evolved about 60-120 million years ago. It is theorized that these plants must have evolved before insects and many of these carnivorous plants derived from unrelated plant families, with genetic relationships.
Did you know?
Carnivorous plants still engage in the conventional plant process of photosynthesis!
Here is a cool video of the 10 most amazing Carnivorous plants…
I wonder if these plants will ever evolve to eat bigger animals…?
Reference: Degreef, J.D. 1997; Juniper, et. al. 1989; Li, H. 2005; Macphail, M.K., & Truswell, E.M. 2003; Raven, et al. 1981; Schlauer, J. 1997, 2010; Truswell, E.M., & Marchant, N.G. 1986; reader contributions; personal observations.