It’s a Snap for the Venus Fly-Trap

Over on New Scientist, they have a short piece on the mechanism of the Venus Fly-Trap. The leaves that make up the trap change shape from convex to concave, and this change in shape produces the rapid snapping action that is able to catch flies.

This sort of action is called snap-through in other contexts. You probably know it best from the popping of tops in many canned goods, where if it doesn’t give a pop on opening, you know the can has been opened before. These changes in shape from one stable state to another happen rapidly, which is the basis of action of the common dog clicker, which in a click operation undergoes two of these deformations.

This still leaves the topic of how this mechanism evolved. I’ll have to check with Nick Matzke on this, for he’s looked at these carnivorous plants in some detail.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “It’s a Snap for the Venus Fly-Trap

  • 2005/01/27 at 2:46 pm
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    Hmm, the Nature article doesn’t say anything about evolution, but at the end of the New Scientist article one of the researchers is quoted,

    Darwin was fascinated by the plant. “Our study still leaves us baffled about one question that motivated him – how did this mechanism evolve?” Mahadevan says.

    Hmm, that’s interesting — at least five publications, starting with Darwin in Insectivorous Plants in 1875, have hit upon the same basic model for how the Venus flytrap evolved. I’m sure they have these articles/books in the Harvard library…

    I’ll blog it later today…

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