Predatory pollination

Come closer dearie...  Image courtesy of Stefan Doetterl.

Come closer dearie...

Image courtesy of Stefan Doetterl.

With its needle-like teeth and pitcher shape the South African parachute plant looks like it ought to be carnivorous. It very nearly is. Flies that enter fall into a pit of pollen and cannot get out until the pod they are in begins to wilt and the teeth holding them captive weaken. Yet many mysteries have remained. Flies are not known for their intelligence but it seems odd that they would be so willing to crawl into such a treacherous looking cavity.  Now a new study is revealing that the plant is releasing chemicals that dupe the insects into believing that their favourite prey are lying wounded within. 

You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this here.