Two Tree Shrews, One Cup.

New research is ROCKING the notoriously arrogant carnivorous plant scientific community: It appears that the largest carnivorous plant, the giant pitcher plant of Borneo (or the Nepenthes rajah for those in the know), has not evolved into its immense size in order to capture and eat small rodents, but to be a large toilet for furry tree shrews to deposit their nutrient rich feces in.

i-21c2289d90991fd6cf17a52976b19f0c-tree shrew.jpg
Don't nobody go in there for thirty-five...forty-five minutes!

Since their discovery in the early Eighteen...ahem...hmmm...(sorry, we're animal guys), the giant pitcher plants have been rumored to ingest not just bugs and worms as most carnivorous plants, but also small vertebrates. In the previously linked to article from bbc.com, however, Dr. Charles Clarke of Monash University in Selangor, Malaysia explains, "This species has always been famous for its ability to trap rodents, but I've been looking at the pitchers of this species on and off since 1987, and I've never seen a trapped rat inside." Yeah, what's up with that?

Dr. Clarke did notice all sorts of tree shrew feces in the bottom of the plants, leading him to reconsider the plant's evolution. As it turns out, the plants have large openings, but they also have concave lids which are covered with nectar-producing glands. The distance between the front lip of the pitcher and the glands happens to correspond directly with the average size of the local tree shrews. In other words, when the shrews come to eat the nectar, the plants reap the sweet rewards of being pooped into. You can follow his research more closely by googling "eating animal feces." Good luck with that!

Right now, my head is spinning with so many off color jokes on this subject that I may possibly have a nervous breakdown, but I'll just leave it at this. Somewhere, right now, an obsessive carnivorous plant geek is seriously questioning his entire existence.

Can I please tell you all what a wonderful resource NVDH is? He is like an entire research department for Zooillogix. My man!

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That's certainly an impressive carniverous plant... for me to poop on!

By AnonymousCoward (not verified) on 11 Mar 2010 #permalink

It would be interesting to analyze the pitch plant's nectar for fast-acting laxatives. Yes, sugar is laxative itself but it wouldn't surprise me if the plant hasn't optimized the chances that they get the fullest measure of return on their investment in nectar as shew attractant.

There is also the possibility of laxative addiction. This is seen in older people who start by using a laxative to get things moving but, over time, find they need to laxative to defecate at all.

For shame, carnivorous plants! And I had such respect for you.

I agree that it would be really interesting to see if the plant makes laxative. And if it does, it would also be cool to trace that trait.

In any case, it just makes you wonder what other depths plants will sink to in order to get what they need to survive.

The plant in the picture is Nep. loweii not N. rajah which is typically terrestrial...

no laxative would work fast enough, I think the plant co-evolved so as to provide a relaxing atmosphere. I bet it smells like sea breeze air freshener to the shrews

Love the title Benny! Poor rodent had it's bathroom break broadcasted to the world!

By Tammy Edlin (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

work fast enough, I think the plant co-evolved so as to provide a relaxing atmosphere. I bet it smells like sea breeze air freshener to the

Surely we should be looking at how to commercialize this discovery. I can already visualize a range of infants portable potty's designed along these lines. Where do I apply for the patent?