Biologist Martin Dančák didn’t set out to find a new scientific plant species. But while hiking in the Borneo rainforest, he and his colleagues stumbled across an underground surprise.
Carnivorous pitchers hide in dark, mossy pockets under soil and tree roots, their death traps dangling underground. The pitchers look like hollow eggplants and may lure unsuspecting prey into sewer hole-like traps.Once an ant or beetle steps in, the insect falls and dies, drowning stewed digestive juice (SN: 11/22/16). Until now, scientists have never observed a pitcher plant’s traps buried almost entirely on Earth.
“Of course, we were surprised because no one would have thought that there would be pitcher plants with underground traps,” said Dančák of Palacki University in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
That’s because pitchers tend to be fragile. But new species’ Hidden traps have fleshy walls that help push them towards the soil As they grow underground, Dančák and colleagues on June 23 plant key. The team named the species due to the buried pitcher hidden from view pitcher plant, Homage to bashful in Latin.
The work “highlights how much biodiversity we haven’t fully discovered yet,” said Leonora Bittleston, a biologist at Boise State University in Idaho who was not involved in the study. Other pitcher plant species may have traps lurking in the ground that scientists haven’t noticed, she said. “I don’t think a lot of people really dig deep.”