If you thought pitcher plants were cool, enter the amazing world of sticky or flypaper traps. These traps are dominated by the genus Drosera, commonly known as the sundews, representing more than 180 species. They are the only genus of active sticky traps, which are most interesting because they often feature moving leaves, and are found in all continents except, of course, Antarctica.
Plants are boring. At least that is what I—as well as countless others—thought in school. Animals seemed far more exciting than studying plants. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t find plants interesting. One of the reasons was that I couldn’t see plants moving—with the exception of ‘touch-me-nots’ that rapidly fold inward upon touching—and they aren’t cute and cuddly as mammals are. Later, when I learned that plants produce their own sugars using water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight—a phenomenon we know as photosynthesis and achieved by only a few other life forms— I got a little interested.
But what really piqued my curiosity and captivated me was when I learned that some unusual plants go a step further: they have evolved to ‘eat meat’—insects in particular. We normally expect insects to eat plants, which in turn are preyed on by larger animals, as the food web goes. But when the roles are reversed, it is harder for us to digest that plants can actually play the role of predators.
Few organisms can survive in harsh environments, such as extreme cold or dry conditions, but some species equipped with special adaptations can thrive. The Antarctic midge, Belgica Antarctica, the only wingless insect native to Antarctica, has the smallest insect genome among those sequenced, a likely adaptation to the extreme conditions it is exposed to, according to a new study. Led by Professor Joanna Kelley at Washington State University, US, the study is the first to sequence the genome of an insect found in the poles.
Fungi come in diverse colors: black, green, white, pink, yellow, red, and many more. Equally diverse are their shapes and sizes, from single-celled yeasts and fuzzy molds, to large mushrooms. They are found everywhere – at home, at the workplace, and of course outside – even if you cannot see them. What’s more, they even grow in harsh environments such as deserts and radioactive surroundings. Although thousands of species have been characterized, there are over a million species of fungi, most of which are waiting to be discovered. They are armed with remarkable abilities to guard themselves from enemies – one of the keys to their success.
Fungi are a good source of nutrients and fungivores, akin to herbivores, are organisms that primarily feed on fungi. Most fungivores are insects but there are also some small mammals, for example, the northern flying squirrel. From the viewpoint of fungi, fungivores present a threat to their survival, and they ought to protect themselves.