Meat-eating feat

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Credit: Claire Takacs / Getty Images

Pitcher plants capture insects by luring them into a pitfall trap – a cupped leaf with a waxy, slippery interior that makes it difficult to climb out. A soup of digestive fluids sits at the bottom of this chamber and breaks down the flesh and exoskeleton of prey.

Australian (Cephalotus follicularis), Asian (Nepenthes alata, pictured above) and American (Sarracenia purpurea) pitcher plants possess these features despite having evolved independently to become carnivores. A new study in Nature Ecology and Evolution concludes that the biological machinery required for digesting insects evolved in a strikingly similar fashion in all three.

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