The Digestive Processes of Carnivorous and Sub-Carnivorous Plants Essay

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The Digestive Processes of Carnivorous and Sub-carnivorous plants The origins of carnivorous plants are something of a mystery, though several hypotheses have appeared over the years in an attempt to explain how carnivory first began in these most fascinating plants. Almost all carnivorous plants share one trait in common: they grow in soils that are nutrient, and especially nitrogen, deficient. (Slack, 1979) Through the capture and digestion of insects, these plants overcame the hardships present in these areas and were able to move into unoccupied niches. This ability is such an advantage that it has evolved independently six times in five different orders, containing over 630 individual species. Many different types of traps have evolved during this time, each with its own benefits and costs, and each with their own process of obtaining nutrients from their captured prey. Carnivorous plants are traditionally separated into two groups based on degrees of carnivory. Carnivorous plants are those plants which are capable of trapping, killing and digesting prey with no help from outside organisms. Sub-carnivorous plants are those plants which can trap and kill insects, but rely on other organisms for digestion. (Scott, 2008) Three groups of carnivorous plants will be discussed in this paper, with specific representations for each. The genus Drosera and Dionaea muscipula will be used to examine true carnivorous plants, the genera Heliamphora and Roridula will be representative of sub-carnivorous plants, and the plants Sarracenia pupurea, Nepenthes lowii, and the genus Byblis will be used as examples of where the distinction between carnivorous and sub-carnivorous plants is not so clear. The defining feature of a true carnivorous plant is its ability to digest its prey without the help of another organism. This is done through the use of enzymes. Drosera,

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