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Several Venus flytraps

There are some environments where there is no soil. In other words, the ground is sterile in the sense that there are no nutrients plants need to grow. Severe forest fires can destroy the nutrients plants use. Plants are essential to the ecology of an area. How do you grow a plant without nutrients in the soil? Some of the most highly designed plants get their nutrients from eating insects. There are over 500 species that get their nutrients in this way. The Venus flytrap is the classic example.

The flytrap has sensitive hairs which are interconnected. When something touches a hair, a signal is sent through the cells. If nothing hits another hair, the plant remains inactive. That is because things like dust and air-blown debris are usually not food sources. If a second hair is struck, the two sides of the flytrap snap closed in less than one-tenth of a second trapping the insect. The bigger the insect is, the more chemical is required to digest it. The plant counts how many hairs are struck. When the fifth hair is struck, 37,000 glands that line the two sides begin to activate. The number of glands that secrete chemicals is determined by how many hairs were struck which is determined by the size of the insect.

Amazing as the design to catch and digest the insect is, the chemistry used is even more complex. Normal plants get nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil. Nitrogen is needed to make proteins for cell structures as well as to make enzymes. Phosphorus is needed to make ATP and DNA. Carnivorous plants get these nutrients by ingesting the biologically active molecules from their prey. Protein segments containing nitrogen and DNA backbone materials containing phosphorous are gained from the insects eaten.

Scientists have copied the flytrap's system to devise methods of controlled injection of medicines inside the human body. They do this using silicone polymers with small pockets containing medication. Many other uses of the flytrap's design are coming to light. Hongrui Jiang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison says “Learning from nature can actually teach us how to come up with something more functional.” God has much to teach us if we will just listen and learn through the things he has made. Source: Chem Matters, December 1993, page 4; Discover, July/August 2016, page 11; and Science News, November 24, 2007, page 324.

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© MONIPHOTO. Image from BigStockPhoto.com