Rat-eating plant!

As reported by the Times online, scientists working in the Philippines have discovered a rare pitcher plant so large that it can digest rats. (These plants attract insects and other creatures, who drown in a pool of liquid secreted by and contained within the leaves, and are subsequently digested by the plant.)

The species, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is named after David Attenborough. To be fair, another larger species in the genus is known to have eaten rodents, which are almost certainly not the main food of these plants.
Like all carnivorous plants, pitcher plants are marvels of natural selection, and later I’ll have a few things to say about how they might have evolved from non-carnivorous relatives.

grren-360_602181aFigure 1. Nepenthes attenboroughii

11 Comments

  1. newenglandbob
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    How well do they survive in basements? Are mice a delicacy for them?

  2. bric
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure the information panel for these Nepanthes Miranda I photographed at Kew last year mentioned that the larger specimens could digest a rat

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bric_uk/3276131859/in/set-72157594348749532/

  3. Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I’m growing a Nepenthes in my windowsill, though nowhere near as large. If there was such a thing as karma, carnivorous plants would be its manifestation.

  4. Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Yikes.. that’s pretty scary! I have never seen a plant eating rat before. Any youtube video for this?

    • bric
      Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      If you search ‘nepenthes’ on YouTube there are many things being eaten, including a couple of mice. This is David Attenborough himself creeping up on one of the monsters

      • JD
        Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Bric,

        Thank you for posting the video. It was beautiful to watch.

  5. Notorious P.A.T.
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Now all we need to find out is: what did these plants eat in the Garden, before the fall?

    • newenglandbob
      Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      They didn’t need to eat. They sat around singing ‘kumbaya’ and the camaraderie was all the nourishment that was necessary.

  6. JefFlyingV
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    A magnificent specimen, glad to see Attenborough will be remembered in a species name.

    • TheBlackCat
      Posted August 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      According to wikipedia, there are at least 3 other species or genera with his name. The pitcher plant is already on there.

  7. prairie4hiker
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    This is a perfect example of intelligent design. Of course, in this case, it would also be proof of not one deity that creates but one of many that are going around designing willy-nilly.

    Perhaps there are poker games where the winner gets to create something new… marsupials and large mammals by the more successful poker players….. pitcher plants by the one-in-a-million bluff player.

    Intelligent design? ubetcha, but why stop at one intelligence……


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