It is a well known fact that plants do not own a brain to plan and think something through. But they do have mechanical strategies that work all the time and actually are found to show a great amount of nature’s cleverness. Miracles are natural, and these plants surely do it right.
Meet the pitcher carnivorous plants, maybe the most intelligent ones on Earth. Tropical pitcher plants are Asian species of carnivorous plants that use traps to capture insects, and not any number of them. For this kind of plants, it’s all about the quantity. One single ant is not as charming as dozens of them. And also, they like tasting many species of them. The plant lives in Borneo and it exploits natural weather fluctuations in very creative ways.
The trick is the slippery trap. In order to attract the insects, the plant secretes sugary nectar that leads to condensation and makes the trapping surface wet. The first ant comes to taste the wonderful nectar and goes back to the colony to share the news of its latest discovery. It is a well known fact that ants are very cooperative creatures. Hot sunny weather helps them a lot, because it makes the surface of the plant dry and it makes it safe for the insects to visit. But at the time they come back together to eat the promised nectar, the surface became wet and slippery, so that they can’t escape anymore.
Scrientist Ulrike Bauer of Bristol University’s School of Biological Sciences says that:
“By ‘switching off’ their traps for part of the day, pitcher plants ensure that scout ants can return safely to the colony and recruit nest-mates to the trap. Later, when the pitcher becomes wet, these followers get caught in one sweep. What looks like a disadvantage at first sight, turns out to be a clever strategy to exploit the recruitment behavior of social insects.”
The balance between the races becomes clear as daylight, because the energy gain obtained by the ants when eating the nectar outweighs the loss of the worker ants. It’s a mutual connection and help between the carnivore plants and the insects.
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