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What type of consumer is a Venus fly trap?
Question Date: 2020-10-27
Answer 1:

That’s an interesting question. I assume you’re asking whether they are primary, secondary, or tertiary consumers. Venus fly traps are often called “carnivorous plants.” They do “eat” insects, but insects are not a source of energy for the plants. The insects are a source of nutrients. What’s the difference? Energy is the ability to do work. It has no mass and takes up no space. Nutrients (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) are matter. They have mass and take up space. Nutrients are the building blocks of the biomolecules (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, DNA, etc.) that make living things.

Venus fly traps are producers. They do not produce energy (no living thing does) but they do produce food. Producers transform light energy into the energy in biomolecules by doing photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, they take small, simple molecules (carbon dioxide and water) and use light energy to do the work of building larger, more complex molecules like sugar. Oxygen is a byproduct. Carbon is an important nutrient that plants take in as carbon dioxide through tiny holes in their leaves.

Maybe you noticed that I haven’t mentioned nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium yet. Plants would take those nutrients up from the soil through their roots. But some places have soil that has very low levels of nutrients. Venus fly traps often grow in very sandy soil with very little of what we call “organic matter,” which basically means dead stuff. Carnivorous plants can get some nutrients by dissolving unlucky insects and other arthropods and absorbing their nutrients.

So are they consumers? Sure, if you’re looking at nutrients instead of energy. Which level depends on what they’re eating. A species can be on more than one level. We’re never producers, but if we’re eating a plain salad, we’re primary consumers. Add some grilled chicken (and the chicken ate grain) and then we’re primary and secondary consumers at the same time. If the chicken ate herbivorous insects along with grain, we’re also eating at the tertiary level. Like most interesting questions, the answer can be complex.

There are other species of carnivorous plants (see more at: this site ). Why do you think most plants are not carnivorous?

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