Victor Albert

Map of Southeast Asia.

Study sheds light on how carnivorous plants acquired taste for meat

Victor Albert

Although several distantly related plants — including the Australian, Asian and American pitcher plants developed carnivory independently, the biological machinery required for digesting insects evolved in a strikingly similar fashion in all three.

The findings hint that for a plant, the evolutionary routes to carnivory may be few and far between. It suggests that there are only limited pathways for becoming a carnivorous plant. These plants have a genetic tool kit, and they're trying to come up with an answer to the problem of how to become carnivorous. And in the end, they all come up with the same solution.

The research, "Genome of the pitcher plant Cephalotus reveals genetic changes associated with carnivory," was published on Feb. 6 in Nature Ecology and Evolution. It was conducted by an international team led by Mitsuyasu Hasebe of the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan and SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies) in Japan; Kenji Fukushima of the same institutions and the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Shuaicheng Li of BGI-Shenzhen in China; and Albert, professor of biological sciences in UB's College of Arts and Sciences.