Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’

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Abstract

Background

A plant is considered carnivorous if it receives any noticeable benefit from catching small animals. The morphological and physiological adaptations to carnivorous existence is most complex in plants, thanks to which carnivorous plants have been cited by Darwin as ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’. When considering the range of these adaptations, one realizes that the carnivory is a result of a multitude of different features.

Scope

This review discusses a selection of relevant articles, culled from a wide array of research topics on plant carnivory, and focuses in particular on physiological processes associated with active trapping and digestion of prey. Carnivory offers the plants special advantages in habitats where nutrient supply is scarce. Counterbalancing costs are the investments in synthesis and the maintenance of trapping organs and hydrolysing enzymes. With the progress in genetic, molecular and microscopic techniques, we are well on the way to a full appreciation of various aspects of plant carnivory.

Conclusions

Sufficiently complex to be of scientific interest and finite enough to allow conclusive appraisal, carnivorous plants can be viewed as unique models for the examination of rapid organ movements, plant excitability, enzyme secretion, nutrient absorption, food-web relationships, phylogenetic and intergeneric relationships or structural and mineral investment in carnivory.

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