Dec 20, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

Carnivorous Plants Are Going Vegetarian

Just when humans are switching to diets heavy on red meat, pork, chicken and seafood and light on greens, a new study found that carnivorous plants are going in the other direction and becoming vegetarians. Isn’t that cannibalistic?

The journal Annals of Botany reports on a study of the bladderwort (Utricularia), an aquatic species of carnivorous plant that catches its prey with suction bladders, trap doors and lightning speed. Once captured by the bladderwort, the animal is suffocated, broken down by enzymes and digested. At least that’s how it worked until the bladderworts discovered vegetarianism.

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Bladderwort eating a flea - pre-vegetarian

According to Austrian researchers Marianne Koller-Peroutka and Wolfram Adlassnig, bladderworts are switching to algae and pollen grains. Once thought to be useless extras consumed while eating animals (like the parsley on a steak platter), the researchers found that when bladderworts lived in areas where algae was abundant and animals were scarce, like peat bogs, the vegetarian plants were actually larger than the meat eaters.

Does this mean all bladderworts should go vegan? Not really. The researchers also found that consuming animals gave the plants a higher nitrogen content which increased the development of hibernation buds which are critical to helping them survive over cold winters.

Just like humans, bladderworts do best on a balanced diet of meats and vegetables. However, it’s a good sign that they can adapt to low animal-high algae water conditions which are becoming more prevalent due to climate change and pollution.

What’s the solution for us? Maybe it’s time for the “Eat Like A Baldderwort” diet. I think I’ll put it on Kickstarter.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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