The Late Movies: 13 Carnivorous Plants Eating Insects...and More

Tonight, prepare to be a little grossed out: videos of carnivorous plants eating stuff. Not for the faint of heart!

Sundew vs. Fruit Fly Timelapse

Taken over six hours.

Venus Flytrap vs. Slug

The audio is just buzzing, making it even more bizarre.

Venus Flytrap vs. Fly

Tense. Audio is bad/unimportant.

Venus Flytrap vs. Butterfly and Frog

That might actually be a moth, but still. Yeek.

Venus Flytrap vs. Spider

The spider is being fed to the plant. Sad.

Venus Flytrap vs. Ladybug

Now this is way sadder than the spider.

Venus Flytrap and Pitcher Plants vs. David Attenborough

Sir David is not eaten. Just wanted to be clear about that. This one ends with a cliffhanger!

Sundew Plant vs. Flies

Apparently from the same documentary as the video above.

Pitcher Plant vs. Mouse

The video's YouTube title kinda gives away the ending to this one. But still, it's touch and go for a bit, particularly near the end. And apparently later it didn't go so well.

Bladderworts

This video is a bit slow (partly because the bladderwort is such a tiny plant), but hey, it's eating insects too!

Pitchers With Fangs

A look at some scary stuff at Kew Gardens. "These ones can actually catch mammals!"

How Pitcher Plants Work

A nice video from New Scientist explaining how the pitcher plant works. Science!

Further Reading

Check out: The Hunting Strategies of Carnivorous Plants, Stunning but Deadly Carnivorous Plants, and Madagascar’s Legendary Man-Eating Tree. You might also enjoy Wild View: Carnivorous Plants, a short documentary on carnivorous plants focusing on those found in the wilds of the US.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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This Plant Can Burn Your Skin With Its Sap—And It May Be Coming to Your Neighborhood
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It's huge, it's extremely dangerous, and it's spreading. The giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes, third-degree burns, and even permanent blindness if you get the photosensitive chemicals on your skin or in your eyes, Science Alert reports.

The noxious, invasive weed was just identified in Clarke County, Virginia, near the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. That brings the number of states it's been spotted in to 11, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. Beyond the U.S., it has taken root all over the world, from the UK to Iceland to Australia.

Similar to the common but slightly less dangerous cow parsnip, giant hogweed is native to Central Asia and was first brought to North America in the early 1990s as an ornamental plant, its unique shape making it popular among gardeners. But it soon became invasive: Once it’s established in an area, it can take up to five years to eradicate a colony.

Now the plant is considered a public health concern. Hogweed can cause a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis when it comes into contact with skin that is subsequently exposed to UV rays—but the effects of hogweed are much more severe. A painful blister can develop within hours and last for months; the exposed skin can remain sensitive to sunlight for years even after the blisters heal.

Hogweed can be difficult to distinguish from the cow parsnip, and the plant is often misidentified. First, check for height: Hogweeds are typically taller than 8 feet, while cow parsnip tends to be 5 to 8 feet tall. Hogweed stems are green with purple specks and coarse white hairs, while parsnip stems are green with fine white hairs. For more tips and photos, check out the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s guide.

If you see a plant you think might be a giant hogweed, take a few photos and send them to your state's department of agriculture to identify—and whatever you do, don't touch it.

[h/t Science Alert]

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