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Does Know how Have Plants Evolved Into Predators? Changing From Herbivores to Carnivores Is an Evolutionary Process.

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Toward the close of the nineteenth century, gruesome tales about deadly plants began to circulate. In far-off countries, terrible, tentacle-waving trees kidnapped and consumed unlucky visitors. Mad professors fed their giant sundews and pitcher plants raw steak till they turned and ate them as well.

In a story about everyone’s favourite flesh-eating creature, the Venus flytrap, the youthful Arthur Conan Doyle stayed closer to the science.

He precisely described the two-lobed traps, the manner they collected insects, and how completely they devoured their victims, based on brand-new botanical discoveries. But even his flytraps were unusually enormous, capable of encasing and devouring a person. You may thank Charles Darwin for the popularity of meat-eating, man-eating plants.

Most people did not think that plants ate animals until Darwin’s time. It was a blatant violation of the natural order of things. Animals that could move ate plants that couldn’t; if they killed, it had to be in self-defense or by accident.

Darwin spent 16 years meticulously conducting tests that demonstrated the contrary. He demonstrated how the leaves of some plants could be turned into creative constructions that not only captured insects but also allowed them to escape.

Darwin published Insectivorous Plants in 1875, documenting all he had found. Another myth-debunking book, The Power of Movement in Plants, was released in 1880. The discovery that plants could move and murder spawned not just a very popular genre of horror novels, but also generations of scientists eager to learn more about these strange creatures.

Today, carnivorous plants are seeing a resurgence as scientists seek to unravel one of botany’s most vexing mysteries: how did generally mild-mannered floral plants evolve into deadly meat-eaters?

More recently, discoveries in molecular science have aided researchers in better understanding fundamental mechanisms behind the carnivorous lifestyle, such as how a flytrap snaps so quickly and transforms into an insect-juicing “stomach” before absorbing the remnants of its victim. But the key issue remained: how did evolution bestow the ability to eat meat on these dietary outliers?

Fossils have yielded practically no information. According to biophysicist Rainer Hedrich of the University of Würzburg in Germany, who analyses the origins of carnivory in the 2021 Annual Review of Plant Biology, there are extremely few, and fossils can’t disclose molecular features that would hint to an answer.

Researchers may now approach the topic in a new way, thanks to advancements in DNA sequencing technology.

Although genes may occasionally move from one kind of creature to another, there is no indication that carnivorous plants gained any of their monstrous tendencies by stealing genes from their animal prey, according to Hedrich.

Rather, a plethora of new studies indicate to the co-opting and repurposing of existing genes with long-established roles that are found in all flowering plants.

“Evolution is deceptive and adaptable.” Victor Albert, a plant-genome scientist at the University of Buffalo, explains, “It makes advantage of existent techniques.” “In evolution, it’s easier to reuse something than to create something new.”

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