Evolved into the toilet: carnivorous plants switched to feces to survive

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Evolved into toilet bowl: carnivorous plants switched to feces to survive

Researchers have found that these water lilies have switched from capturing insects to eating feces and seem to have done well.

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Scientists have found that some species of carnivorous water lilies (Nepenthes) have switched to a new diet – alas, not so appetizing. If earlier these plants preferred to snack on whole insects, now they have focused on eating animal excrement. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary step for plants, writes Science Alert.

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These water lilies have actually evolved into toilet bowls, and are now able to get their daily allowance of nutrients from animal feces. And that's not all. Research shows that these feces eaters manage to absorb more nitrogen than any other non-Penthes due to their new diet.

The researchers found that despite the fact that the new diet, alas, does not look appetizing, it quite wins over the previous one. What's more, according to Alastair Robinson, a botanist at the Royal Victorian Botanic Gardens in Australia, this evolutionary approach provides us with several important lessons in terms of how plants are able to develop and adapt. Robinson also believes that scientists need to learn more about how Nepenthes improved their diet in order to further protect them and other species.

The researchers note that after they noticed that several species of Nepenthes switched to a new diet, they studied their diet in more detail – it turned out that nitrogen uptake in these plants was twice as high as in other Nepenthes. During the study, the team studied six 6 species and 4 Nepenthes hybrids in Malaysian Borneo – during the study, scientists studied their tissues to determine the amount of nitrogen and carbon captured from outside.

Evolved into a toilet bowl: carnivorous plants switched to feces to survive

Evolved into toilet bowl: carnivorous plants switched to feces to survive

Researchers believe the water lily's new diet is due to inexorable decline in insect populations at higher elevations, thereby forcing some plants to turn to alternative food sources. Thus, carnivorous plants have learned to obtain the necessary food from the excrement of carnivorous animals.

By the way, this is not the first time that researchers have discovered the specific nutrition of water lilies. In 2009, for example, scientists found that carnivorous plants formed a coalition with mountain shrews, depositing nitrogen-rich feces in water lilies while feeding on carbohydrates on the tops of the plants. Later, scientists discovered similar mutually beneficial relationships of Nepenthes with summit rats, birds, and even bats.