This exceedingly rare plant, dubbed Philcoxia minensis, has been found in no more than a handful of what are becoming increasingly rare Brazilian savannah regions.
Scientists are claiming to have discovered a new, carnivorous Brazilian plant using sticky, subterranean leaves for the catching and digesting of worms, a discovery of a kind seldom seen in modern biology. This plant presents an evolutionary strategy - never before been observed in the plant kingdom - for acquiring nutrients.
This exceedingly rare plant, dubbed Philcoxia minensis, has been found in no more than a handful of what are becoming increasingly rare Brazilian savannah regions, researchers describing the plant as having, in addition to 1mm wide leaves growing aboveground, far more below ground of the curious leaves with sticky, finger-like projections used to capture small worms.
Leaves are commonly only as thought about as photosynthetic, making it seem odd that a plant would place its leaves away from sunlight underground, so the question was that of why evolution favoured this apparently unfavourable behaviour.
Biologists began suspecting that those bizarre underground leaves might be used for hunting, the tiny structures bearing characteristics in common with known meat-eating plants like the Venus flytrap. As with this Brazilian counterpart, Venus flytraps often inhabit poor soil, so evolutionary adaptations for obtaining nutrients was essential.
To test their theory, plants were provided with worms laced with isotope nitrogen-15, and a subsequent chemical analysis of the plant’s leaves revealed significant nitrogen-15 quantities inside, clear sign that the plant had absorbed the valuable nutrient by digesting the worms
The scientists also found that the nutrients were absorbed from the worms direct, rather than from the surrounding soil, indicating that the leaves release digestive enzymes into the captured worms, making quick and easy nutrient absorption possible.
These findings are of particular significance in that evolutionary biologists believe them to demonstrate clearly that predatory plants came into existence via multiple, independent evolutionary pathways, broadening general perception about plants.
Even though these plants neither move nor actively hunt for their food, they have evolved various fascinating solutions to solve common problems like insufficient nutrients or water through fascinating processes which are largely hidden from human eyes, yet more proof that in nature, life will always find a way.