Feeling the Heat

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The Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant known for its ability to catch and consume insects, has a unique mechanism to defend itself against wildfires, Phys.org reported.

During the dry summer months, the grass that typically covers the plant dries up, making it vulnerable to potential fires.

If a fire breaks out, the insect-eating plant employs specialized heat receptors located in its sensory hairs, researchers from Julius-Maximilians-University in Germany recently noted in experiments. These receptors trigger a protective response that causes the plant to close its snap traps and shield the vital sensory hairs from being damaged by the fire.

The research team explained that this panic button is not solely based on temperature thresholds, as seen in many other organisms.

Instead, the Venus flytrap reacts to the speed of the temperature change: If the temperature increases abruptly – such as during a heatwave or fire – the traps close to safeguard the sensory hairs. However, on hot summer days when the temperature rises gradually, the traps remain open.

This adaptation allows the Venus flytrap to survive fires and continue to trap prey even after such events. These findings suggest the presence of a previously unknown type of membrane-bound temperature sensor in plants, potentially expanding our understanding of how plants perceive and respond to their surroundings.

Now, researchers want to know more about the specific mechanisms underlying this unique heat-sensing capability, and hope to uncover new insights into the fascinating world of plant adaptations and sensory perception.

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