The Complicated Sex Lives Of Venus Flytraps

When you think about the Venus flytrap, you might only be picturing their barbed, carnivorous leaves, which trap unsuspecting insects. But you might not know much about their dainty, white flowers, which bloom every spring in the hope of attracting pollinators. And surprisingly, scientists don’t have much research on them either. One of the main questions they have is how the flytrap balances its need for live prey without accidentally eating its own pollinators.

To solve this mystery, ecologists at North Carolina State University have set up a suite of experiments examining how the flytrap interacts with the insects around it. The ecologists meticulously gather data from the plants—which insects they eat versus which pollinate the plants, how many seeds are produced by which pollinators, and what hidden chemicals are used to lure in pollinators versus prey. But their ultimate goal isn’t just to discover how the plant has solved an evolutionary problem. With their habitats under threat, insect species disappearing, and a black-market trade endangering these plants, the researchers hope that understanding the ecology of the flytrap may help conserve them.

Credits

Produced by Luke Groskin
Filmed by Michelle Lotker and Luke Groskin
Music by Audio Network.com
Special Thanks to Laura Hamon, Elsa Youngsteadt, Clyde Sorenson, and Rebecca Irwin

Meet the Producer

About Luke Groskin

Luke Groskin is Science Friday’s video producer. He’s on a mission to make you love spiders and other odd creatures.

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