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British Botanist Discovers Rat-eating Plant in Philippines

by Gopalan on  August 19, 2009 at 2:53 PM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
 British Botanist Discovers Rat-eating Plant in Philippines
A team led by British botanist Stewart McPherson seem to have identified a new carnivorous plant in Palawan, central Philippines. The pitcher plant is among the largest of its kind and is so big that it can catch rats as well as insects in its leafy trap.
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The new discovery measures about 30 centimeters in diameter and are formed in the shape of a large cup, which, is full of water and acidic enzymes.

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Prey is attracted by a sweet-scented nectar, and once captured in the cup it is prevented from escaping by the slippery, waxy leaves and, as a consequence, drowns.

McPherson discovered over 20 new varieties of pitcher plant on the trip and made two rediscoveries.

They published details of the discovery in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society earlier this year.

Word that this new species of pitcher plant existed initially came from two Christian missionaries who in 2000 attempted to scale Mount Victoria, a rarely visited peak in central Palawan in the Philippines.

With little preparation, the missionaries attempted to climb the mountain but became lost for 13 days before being rescued from the slopes.

On their return, they described seeing a large carnivorous pitcher plant.

That pricked the interest of natural history explorer Stewart McPherson of Red Fern Natural History Productions based in Poole, Dorset, UK and independent botanist Alastair Robinson, formerly of the University of Cambridge, UK and Volker Heinrich, of Bukidnon Province, the Philippines.

Pitcher plants are carnivorous. Carnivorous plants come in many forms, and are known to have independently evolved at least six separate times. While some have sticky surfaces that act like flypaper, others like the Venus fly trap are snap traps, closing their leaves around their prey.

The team has placed type specimens of the new species in the herbarium of the Palawan State University, and have named the plant Nepenthes attenboroughii after broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.

"The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats," says McPherson.

Pitcher plants are carnivorous. Carnivorous plants come in many forms, and are known to have independently evolved at least six separate times. While some have sticky surfaces that act like flypaper, others like the Venus fly trap are snap traps, closing their leaves around their prey.

During the expedition, the team also encountered another pitcher, Nepenthes deaniana, which had not been seen in the wild for 100 years. The only known existing specimens of the species were lost when the Philippine National Herbarium in Manila was bombed towards the end of World War II.

Source: Medindia
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