PARIS (AFP) - American and French scientists believed they have explained how one of nature's marvels, the Venus flytrap, snaps shut to snare its victims.
Scientists have long wondered how the flytrap (Latin name Dionaea muscipula) is able to do this spectacular feat, given that it does not have the nerves and muscles of fast-moving animals. The answer, according to a study published on Thursday, is tensile strength.
The plant first bends back its rubbery leaves so that they are convex-shaped, rather like half a tennis ball that has been flipped inside-out. To close the trap, the plant releases the tensed-up energy. The leaves instantly flip from convex to concave -- as if the half tennis ball has suddenly popped back to its normal shape. Their edges snap together and the insect is trapped within.
"Closure is characterized by the slow storage of elastic energy followed by its release," say the authors, led by Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, an Indian-born professor of applied mathematics and evolutionary biology at Harvard University.
The researchers were able to model the change in geometry by putting microscopic dots of ultraviolet fluorescent paint on the external surface of the leaves. They then filmed the closure under ultraviolet light, using a high-speed video at 400 frames per second, which showed the leaves' sudden shift from convex to concave when the trap closed.
Authors of the $600 billion dollar study... ok so I'm exaggerating, but jeesh, what a waste of time and money.