US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Plants do not resort to predation from a good life. This uncharacteristic way of eating for them is usually associated with a deficiency of mineral substances (mainly nitrogen or phosphorus), the lack of which makes it possible to replenish carnivores. Such adaptations have led to the emergence of various hunting tools.
It can be slippery narrow traps, like sarracenia, sticky, like sundews, or even actively slamming like a venus flytrap. But if in horror films the appearance of predatory plants can be associated with an ancient curse or a drop of blood that fell on the leaves, then in real life everything is determined by DNA.
To find out the evolutionary mechanisms that enabled them to develop carnivores, scientists sequenced the complete genomes of three related carnivorous plants – sundew, flytraps and aldrovanda – and compared them with the DNA of nine other plants, both carnivorous (sarraces) and ordinary (beets, papaya and others).
The work showed that the last common ancestor of the studied carnivores lived about 60 million years ago, and the duplication of its entire genome turned out to be a key moment in its evolution.
This event “liberated” copies of many genes from performing their immediate functions and allowed them to freely change and find new tasks.
Thus, the genes necessary for the absorption of nutrients by the roots began to be active in the aboveground organs of plants, altered and adapted to participate in the absorption of digested animals.
Thus, carnivores developed even in the common ancestor of sundew, flycatcher and aldrovanda.
For ancestors of sarraces and some other predatory plants, this happened independently, but Rainer Hedrich and his colleagues from the University of Würzburg have six such transformations that have occurred in evolutionary history. Their article is published in the journal Current Biology.
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