TIL Tuesday: Carnivorous Veggies

I’d like to introduce this blog with something I plan to do every week: TIL (Today I Learned) Tuesday. As I’ve said, I want this blog to be as much about me exploring and learning as it is about me publishing  my own opinions and findings. With that in mind, I’ve decided to include in these posts a weekly theme promoting the exploration of science, nature and the universe. This week, I learned some fun things about carnivorous plants.

I’ve been thinking about Venus Flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) all day, and I don’t know why. (OK, that’s a lie – I saw one in a commercial, and though I can’t remember what was being advertised, I distinctly remember a Flytrap eating a frog.) When I was a kid, I desperately wanted one, and my parents actually got me one in elementary school. I, being a careless little boy, managed to kill it either by over-feeding or neglect (one can’t be sure).


Photo credit: Monika, Odd Stuff Magazine

Little did I know that the Flytrap has a deceased (read: extinct) cousin – who operated completely underwater! The Aldrovanda (Aldrovanda vesiculosa) had the same predatory, clamp-like heads that capture its prey, but they were able to feed on victims through the currents. Its traps closed incredibly fast (.01 to .5 seconds); a fact even more incredible when you consider that the plant had to push through water (much more dense than air). The plant floated freely, and used sensors similar to that of the Flytrap to trigger its snapping.

The history of the Aldrovanda’s name is also quite amusing. When Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, named the plant after Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi, he misspelled Ulisse’s last name, but the nomenclature of the plant stuck. Charles Darwin, who helped us to understand that the plant was carnivorous, nicknamed the plant “the miniature aquatic Dionaea,” thus assimilating it with the Flytrap, and bringing this blog post full-circle.

What a fun bath-time toy that would have made…

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Filed under Science, TIL

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