December 19, 2012 11:48 am
In Venezuela, Heliamphora nutans—a type of carnivorous pitcher plant that grows in swampy locales—beckons ants with a water slide of doom. The specie’s specially adapted, wettable hairs counter the sticky pads and little claws on insect feet and especially seem to target ants, Wired reports.
Compared to other carnivorous plants that have capture rates of about 29 percent for ants, researchers found, the wet hairs on this pitcher plant trap 88 percent of ants that encounter the deadly trap. While other plants tend to repel water, H. nutans‘ hairs actually attract tiny droplets. When ants venture onto the slippery surface, they aquaplane into the plant’s bowl.
Even in dry weather, the researchers found, the pitcher plan managers to lace its hairs with water. It transports moisture from its bowl several inches below to the hairs above. Rain or shine, ants lose, plants win.
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