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Researchers Find Newly Discovered Meat-Eating Plant in Japan

Update Date: May 08, 2013 12:15 PM EDT
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Japanese researchers have discovered a species of plant that eats meat. Though the plant's capability may be surprising, you do not need to be afraid - the plant primarily eats insects, not humans.

The plant, which has purple red flowers, was found in the Aichi prefecture, which is located in the central-southern portion of the main Japanese island. The species was originally mistaken for the plant Drosera Indica, according to the Japan Times, which grows naturally in the region of Asia stretching from India to Japan. However, a genetic analysis confirmed that the plant was indeed a separate species.

According to Popular Science, the newspaper calls the plant a "pitcher plant", but it is in fact a sundew. Both plants are carnivorous, but they are very different otherwise. Pitcher plants consist of a large, cup-shaped flower into which unsuspecting prey falls and is digested. Sundews look like leaves with tentacles on which drops sit. Though the droplets look like dew, garnering the plants their name, they are actually mucus. That mucus is what traps the prey and extracts the enzymes that the plants use as nutrients. A video of a feeding can be found below.

It appears that the rare plant will be added onto Japan's conservation list. The Environment Ministry is planning to add 600 more species by 2030. Environmental groups currently charge that the government is not doing enough to protect the habitats of animals and plants.

Interestingly, researchers from the United Kingdom also recently found a carnivorous plant that was thought to be extinct in the Isle of Man. Last seen on the island in 1998, the plant was found in a pond. The BBC reports that the plant is one of four species of Bladderwort. Though not always carnivorous, when the plant is an environment with poor nutrients, it uses a suction device to draw in insects, from which it slowly extracts nutrients.

Carnivorous plants may seem quite uncommon, but they are slightly more prevalent than might be supposed. The most famous carnivorous plant, at least in the United States, is the Venus fly trap - its familiarity prodded along by its resemblance to Audrey II in the 1986 movie musical Little Shop of Horrors.

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