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Valentine.gr  

June 2013


Did you know that the closing of the trap of aquatic carnivorous plant Aldrovanda vesiculosa takes only 10-20 milliseconds?

Waterwheel (Aldrovanda vesiculosa)

Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa

Aldrovanda vesiculosa, commonly known as the waterwheel plant, is the sole extant species in the flowering plant genus Aldrovanda of the family Droseraceae. Aldrovanda is a free-floating and rootless aquatic plant. This plant is closely related to the Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula, and shares many of its attributes--it functions as a snap-trap carnivore, just under water! A common name for it is the waterwheel plant because a single whorl of leaves, cut from a stem, is wheel-like. The plant captures small aquatic invertebrates using traps similar to those of the Venus Flytrap. The traps are arranged in whorls around a central, free-floating stem, giving rise to the common name. This plant is one of the few species capable of rapid movement.

A. vesiculosa was first mentioned in 1696 by Leonard Plukenet, based on collections made in India. He named the plant Lenticula pulustris Indica. The modern botanical name originates from Giuseppe Monti, who described Italian specimens in 1747 and named them Aldrovandia vesiculosa in honor of the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605). When Carl Linnaeus published his Species Plantarum in 1753, the "i" was dropped from the name (an apparent orthographic error) to form the modern binomial.

While the genus Aldrovanda is monotypic, up to 19 extinct species are known to have existed. While the species displays a degree of morphological plasticity between populations, A. vesiculosa possesses a very low genetic diversity across its entire range.

A. vesiculosa has declined over the last century to only 50 confirmed extant populations worldwide. These remain spread across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

A. vesiculosa is a rootless aquatic plant; seedlings develop a short protoroot, however this fails to develop further and senesces. The plant consists of floating stems reaching a length of 640 cm. The 23 mm trap leaves grow in whorls of 5-9 in close succession along the plant's central stem. The actual traps are held by petioles which hold air sacks that aid in flotation. One end of the stem continually grows while the other end dies off. Growth is quite rapid (49 mm/day in Japanese populations), so that in optimal conditions a new whorl is produced once or more each day.

The actual traps consist of two lobes which fold together to form a snap-trap similar to that of the Venus fly trap, except that they are smaller and underwater. These traps, which are twisted so that the trap openings point outward, are lined on the inside by a fine coating of trigger hairs, snapping shut in response to contact with aquatic invertebrates and trapping them. The closing of this trap takes 10-20 milliseconds, which is impressive when you reflect upon the fact that the trap lobes must push water as they close, making it one of the fastest examples of plant movement in the kingdom. This trapping is only possible in warm conditions (20 C). Each trap is surrounded by between four and six 68 mm long bristles which prevent triggering of traps by debris in the water.  If no prey is captured, the trap reopens in ten to twenty hours.

The strange snapping behavior of the plant was observed by De Sassus as early as 1861, but it was not until Darwin's careful work was there proof it was probably carnivorous. We now know that indeed, the traps produce phosphate-digesting enzymes, and absorb the prey.

The small, solitary white flowers of A. vesiculosa are supported above the water level by short peduncles which arise from whorl axes. The flower only opens for a few hours, after which the structure is brought back beneath the water level for seed production. The seeds are cryptocotylar, meaning that the cotyledons remain hidden within the seed coat and serve as energy storage for the seedlings. Flowering is however rare in temperate regions, and poorly successful in terms of fruit and seed development.

A. vesiculosa reproduces most often through vegetative reproduction. In favourable conditions, adult plants will produce an offshoot every 34 cm, resulting in new plants as the tips continue to grow and the old ends die off and separate. Due to the rapid growth rate of this species, countless new plants can be produced in a short period of time in this fashion.

Winter-hardy Aldrovanda form so-called "turions" as a frost survival strategy. At the onset of winter, the growth tip starts producing highly reduced non-carnivorous leaves on a severely shortened stem. This results in a tight bud of protective leaves which, being heavier and having released flotational gases, breaks off of the mother plant and sinks to the water bottom, where temperatures are stable and warmer. Here it can withstand temperatures as low as -15 C (5 F). In the wild, Aldrovanda turions have been observed to have a relatively low rate of successful sinking. Those nutritious turions that fail to sink are then grazed by waterfowl or are killed by the onset of frost. In spring when water temperatures rise above 12-15C, turions reduce their density and float to the top of the water, where they germinate and resume growth. Non-dormant turion-like organs can also form in response to summer drought.

A. vesiculosa is the most widely distributed carnivorous plant species, native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Aldrovanda is spread mainly through the movement of waterfowl - plants sticking to the feet of a bird are transported to the next aquatic destination on the bird's route. As a result, most Aldrovanda populations are located along avian migratory routes. Throughout the last century the species has become increasingly rare, listed as extinct in an increasingly large number of countries.

A. vesiculosa prefers clean, shallow, warm standing water with bright light, low nutrient levels and a slightly acidic pH (around 6). It can be found floating amongst Juncus, reeds, and even rice.


Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrovanda_vesiculosa
http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq5040.html

 

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