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Planet Earth

When plants become ultrafast killers, it's time to slow the camera down

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerFebruary 17, 2011 1:01 AM

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In my National Geographic article last year on carnivorous plants, I mentioned one particularly swift killer, the bladderwort. This aquatic plant grows little suction traps that can be triggered by passing animals. In a new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, French researchers take the closest look yet at these ultrafast killers. They find that the door to the traps buckles like a popped bubble of chewing gum--but can then almost immediately swing back shut. Along with the new study on jumping fleas I wrote about last week, this is evidence of how far we're just starting to explore the world of quick biology. Science News has a nice write-up, and here is an excellent YouTube video provided by a co-author of the study, Philippe Marmottant, a physicist at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France--complete with computer simulation, rubber-cap demos, and groovy soundtrack. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb_SLZFsMyQ

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