The Venus flytrap digests and absorbs its prey, but how does it coordinate digestion and absorption to maximise the efficiency of this highly evolved mechanism? A new study that combines direct recordings from cells within the trap along with molecular characterization of nutrient transport reveals a complex and coordinated suite of mechanisms that underlie this elegant process (emphasis mine). Colin Brownlee, “Carnivorous Plants: Trapping, Digesting and Absorbing All in One,” Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 17, 9 September 2013, Pages R714-R716.
Not only is this carnivorous plant elegant when seen with the unaided human eye, but the physiological processes and information processing that enable it to catch and digest insects are also beautifully coordinated in a breathtaking multistep process that we now know as never before. As an ENV essay points out, this complex and coordinated suite of mechanisms is given the unsubstantiated label of “highly evolved.” There is no known cause beyond intelligent design that has the foresight to assemble this interdependent 18-step process and its many component contributing parts.
The 18 steps are summarized in yesterday’s ENV essay:
- The traps open wide to the environment, exposing trigger hairs and attractive red leaves.
- Electrical action potentials are established for the trigger hairs on the inner leaf surface.
- The digestive glands remain quiescent till activated. Abscisic acid regulates their sensitivity, but is balanced by 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA), which makes them more sensitive to touch.
- A trigger hair on the inner leaf is touched. If only one is touched, nothing happens.
- A second touch after a short delay, or touch of a second trigger hair, begins a cascade of events.
- Anion channels open. The action potential collapses, activating the motor center.
- Vascoelastic energy snaps the trap shut in a fraction of a second.
- If the triggering substance was not an animal, the trap re-opens after a short period.
- Escape movements by the trapped animal triggers synthesis of a touch hormone, and acidifies the trap.
- The trap edge hairs wrap more tightly around the edges, preventing escape.
- The trap seals hermetically around the prey like a “green stomach,” exposing it to densely packed glands and chlorine ions. [Read about the remainder of the 18 steps and their implications here.]