Mechanism for rapid passive-dynamic prey capture in a pitcher plant

Bauer, Ulrike, Paulin, Marion, Robert, Daniel and Sutton, Gregory (2015) Mechanism for rapid passive-dynamic prey capture in a pitcher plant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (43). pp. 13384-13389. ISSN 0027-8424

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Mechanism for rapid passive-dynamic prey capture in a pitcher plant

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catch animal prey. Most rapid-release mechanisms only work once and, if repeatable, regaining the prerelease state is a slow and costly process. We present an encompassing mechanism for a rapid, repeatable, passive-dynamic motion used by a carnivorous pitcher plant to catch prey. Nepenthes gracilis uses the impact of rain drops to catapult insects from the underside of the canopy-like pitcher lid into the fluid-filled trap below. High-speed video and laser vibrometry revealed that the lid acts as a torsional spring system, driven by rain drops. During the initial downstroke, the tip of the lid reached peak velocities similar to fast animal motions and an order of magnitude faster than the snap traps of Venus flytraps and catapulting tentacles of the sundew Drosera glanduligera. In contrast to these active movements, the N. gracilis lid oscillation requires neither mechanical preloading nor metabolic energy, and its repeatability is only limited by the intensity and duration of rainfall. The underside of the lid is coated with friction-reducing wax crystals, making insects more vulnerable to perturbations. We show that the trapping success of N. gracilis relies on the combination of material stiffness adapted for momentum transfer and the antiadhesive properties of the wax crystal surface. The impact-driven oscillation of the N. gracilis lid represents a new kind of rapid plant movement with adaptive function. Our findings establish the existence of a continuum between active and passive trapping mechanisms in carnivorous plants.

Keywords:biomechanics, pitcher plants, prey capture
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C200 Botany
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:34747
Deposited On:25 Feb 2019 15:25

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