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Do carnivorous plants have both animal and plant cells or just one or the other?
Question Date: 2019-08-23
Answer 1:

Great question.

Carnivorous plants have all plant cells. The walls of the cells are what give the plant structure to stand up. Carnivorous plants still get their energy from sunlight (unlike animals). They use the critters they eat as a source of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. Nutrients are the building blocks of cells.

Most plants pull those nutrients up from the soil. Some soil doesn’t have many nutrients, though. Let’s talk about soil a bit. Dirt is a mixture of minerals (broken-down rock), organic material (dead stuff), air, and water. The proportion of each of these materials depends on a lot of things, including the climate. Soil with a lot of organic material usually has a higher nutrient content. Sandy soil doesn’t trap nutrients well. The nutrients just wash down through the sand to deep layers where roots might not reach. Areas that are dry and either very hot or cold don’t have much plant life, so they don’t have much dead stuff. Bacteria don’t grow well there either, so dead stuff doesn’t get broken down very fast. Soil that has a lot of acid from rainfall doesn’t hold nutrients well, and it doesn’t support much bacterial action.

So we tend to find carnivorous plants in sandy soil. Venus fly traps do well in sand. The bogs near where I live are acidic. I like to show my students the carnivorous pitcher plants that grow there. There are supposed to be carnivorous sun dews there too, but I haven’t seen them.

Look back at my comments about bacteria. Why do you think we preserve foods by drying (jerky and dried fruit), freezing, and pickling?

Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

Carnivory, or feeding on animals, in plants is a case of convergent evolution, where organisms from different lineages evolve to have a common trait. Other than the similarity in appearance, they do not acquire this trait from their common ancestor. Carnivorous plants arise long after animal and plant part their ways on the tree of life.

As Arthur Clarke once wrote, "same problems, same solutions". Carnivorous plants usually live in area where they could not gather certain nutrients from the soil and have to get them from animal preys. In fact, plant carnivory has independently evolved at least five times.

Therefore, although plant carnivory may resemble animal behavior, carnivorous plants are entirely made of plant cells.

Answer 3:

Carnivorous plants only have plant cells, and as far as we know, they cannot move. These plants tend to attract insects and small animals (mammals, reptiles, etc.) by secreting scents or having certain colors/patterns, and they can retain their prey by having sticky or slippery surfaces, mechanisms that can close their traps (fly traps, for instance), and doors (on some types). They then digest their prey by using mixtures of acid and enzymes to break down the bodies of the prey.

Answer 4:

Great question! Carnivorous plants (like Venus fly traps and pitcher plants) eat animals, but they themselves are made up of just plant cells. The cells of the insects they catch are broken up into nutrients that the plant can absorb.

You might wonder if there are any organisms made up of both animal and plant cells. The closest thing I can think of is coral: an animal with plant cells (algae) living inside of it. Coral polyps aren’t born with algae in them, so technically they are separate organisms, but they have a symbiotic relationship (a relationship in which they both benefit), and act like a single organism.

Similarly, lichen is a “composite organism” of plant cells and fungi cells.

Answer 5:

Carnivorous plants are made of only plant cells. This is because their prey does not supply energy, but rather other elements and molecules which are vital for these plants to thrive. As described in more detail here and here, and also on ScienceLine here, carnivorous plants are native to habitats with nutrient-poor soil.

Insects, when broken down, provide nutrients which help the carnivorous plants to grow better. (Note that survival of these plants does not depend on getting those nutrients from insects, but the additional amount is beneficial to growth and reproduction [see the various sites linked above].) The energy used by carnivorous plants instead, like all other plants, comes from compounds formed via photosynthesis.

Only plant cells have the necessary cellular components (chloroplasts ) to perform photosynthesis. Animal cells therefore are not necessary.

Answer 6:

Carnivorous plants are plants. They have only plant cells.

The organs that carnivorous plants use to capture prey are modifications of organs that other plants possess: either leaves (pitcher plant, Venus fly trap), hairs on leaves (sundew), etc. They trap the animal to be eaten, then secrete digestive chemicals to do the digestion. In particular, carnivorous plants want the nitrogen and phosphorous in the animals, not the carbon or oxygen (carnivorous plants can get carbon and oxygen from the air, just like any other plant). Despite the mouth-like appearance that carnivorous plants in movies or video games have, real carnivorous plants don't look like that.

Answer 7:

Carnivorous plants are plants that have only plant cells. They can digest insects, but the insects' cells break open during digestion and don't grow in the plant.

There's a sea slug that has some plant genes in it and can do photosynthesis in the light here.

And I saw a bit of fluff moving in front of my building's door - it seemed to be a pale green insect with pale green fluffy stuff attached to it!

Answer 8:

Carnivorous plants have just plant cells. These plants take in sunlight and nutrients from the ground for energy. Carnivorous plants are typically found in swamps, where sunlight and water is abundant but soil-nutrients are poor. Carnivorous plants adapted by trapping insects for food.

Answer 9:

Thanks for the question, and this one was a bit tricky, requiring some serious conversations and research for me as well. In short, on balance of probability, I’ll state that the answer is likely in the negative (simply “no”).

Now, as that’s probably lacking for you, I’ll elaborate with some context and the logic chain to my negative answer.

First, a little background, carnivorous plants, of which there are approximately 500+ species, often obtain their nourishment, whether it be a portion or most of it, from preying on animals, often small insects, in extreme environments where food may be limited, but water and/or sunlight are plentiful (this will make more sense in the second part). Secondly, in almost all of the carnivorous plants, the leaves have been modified for use to trap and consume prey. In doing so, the plants become less proficient with photosynthesis, more reliant on carnivory, and often require plentiful sunlight to help with this shift. Further, since these plants are simply modifying their leaves, the basic elements, plant cell structure and components, remains unchanged. In short, carnivorous plants use modified leaves for predation, which are likely made of plant cells only.

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