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Venus flytraps use defensive genes for predation

a Venus flytrap

The genes that allow a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) to catch and digest insects might have their roots in basic plant defense, researchers suggest. 

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Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) make carnivory look cool. But the genes that make it possible have roots in herbivory.  

Though modern flytraps eat insects, their ancestors probably didn’t. In search of clues to this transition, Rainer Hedrich of the University of Wurzburg in Germany and his colleagues looked at protein production patterns in in different parts of the plant. 

Unstimulated traps seem to decode genes for similar proteins to those found in leaves, which supports the theory that traps originally evolved from foliage. Glands inside the trap, which help with digestion, share common gene expression patterns with roots — perhaps because both process nutrients.

Sensory hairs signal traps to close on prey. When an unsuspecting spider trips those trap hairs, gene expression patterns shift dramatically. Traps start producing signaling hormones and digestive enzymes. Some of these same protein pathways also help plants heal wounds inflicted by herbivores. Venus flytraps may have rewired traditional plant defense machinery to eat insects in nutrient-poor soils, Hedrich’s team writes May 4 in Genome Resarch

Animals,, Genetics

Why Labrador retrievers are obsessed with food

By Helen Thompson 1:53pm, May 4, 2016
A genetic variant could explain obesity trends seen in Labrador retrievers.
Animals,, Evolution

Male giant water bugs win females by babysitting

By Susan Milius 7:05pm, May 3, 2016
Female giant water bugs prefer males already caring for eggs, an evolutionary force for maintaining parental care.
Particle Physics,, Science & Society

A weasel has shut down the Large Hadron Collider

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, April 29, 2016
A tiny furball brought Earth’s most powerful particle accelerator to its knees this morning.
Health,, Microbiology

This week in Zika: Haiti hit early, possible monkey hosts, and more

By Meghan Rosen 12:54pm, April 29, 2016
A new test for Zika, how Haiti fits into the outbreak timeline, a look at monkeys that can carry the virus, and more in this week’s Zika Watch.

Japan’s latest X-ray telescope is officially dead

By Christopher Crockett 6:51pm, April 28, 2016
The Japanese space agency has officially declared its latest X-ray telescope a loss.

Nightshade plants bleed sugar as a call to ants for backup

By Helen Thompson 4:08pm, April 28, 2016
Bittersweet nightshade produces sugary wound goo to lure in ant protectors that eat herbivores, researchers have found.
Planetary Science

Hubble telescope finds small moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake

By Christopher Crockett 11:31am, April 27, 2016
Hubble Space Telescope images from April 2015 show that the dwarf planet Makemake has a tiny moon.
Science & Society,, Neuroscience

Findings on wobbly memories questioned

By Laura Sanders 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
In contrast to older studies, new results suggest that new memories don’t interfere with older, similar ones.
Plants,, Epigenetics,, Cells

Plants might remember with prions

By Susan Milius 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
A plant protein has passed lab tests for prionlike powers as molecular memory.

Hubble telescope snaps stunning pic for its 26th birthday

By Christopher Crockett 7:00am, April 22, 2016
For its 26th anniversary, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a picture of star blowing bubbles in space.
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