For the English naturalist Charles Darwin, carnivorous plants were one of the most fascinating specimens in nature for their extraordinary physiological and ecological properties. These plants are typical of nutrient-poor habitats — especially nitrogen and phosphorous — and have made up for this deficit with the ability to digest animals such as insects and other arthropods. More than 140 years after Darwin published the book Insectivorous Plants, an international team has identified the genetic changes that have allowed adaptation to the carnivorous diet in some plants, as revealed in a study involving doctors Julio Rozas, Pablo Librado and Alejandro Sánchez-Gracia, from the Faculty of Biology and bio diversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona. Adapting and surviving in nutrient-poor soils with a carnivorous diet is an evolutionary

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process that has been repeated independently in several species, starting from the same set of genes and proteins. This is confirmed by the work published in the journal Nature Ecology & Honduras Email List Evolution, and coordinated by Mitsuyasu Hasebe and Kenji Fukushima (National Institute of Fundamental Biology, Japan), Shuai Cheng Li (University of the City of Hong Kong, China), and Victor A Albert (University of Buffalo, United States). Discovering the genetic machinery that makes the carnivorous diet possible All plants are photosynthetic organisms, that is, they transform the inorganic matter in the environment into organic molecules (glucose). To complement the absence of nutrients in certain soils, carnivorous plants can capture and absorb nutrients from a prey, thanks to biological machinery that is unique to these plants. Experts have sequenced the genome of the pitcher plant

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Cephalotus follicularis), a species native to Australia that has well-differentiated insectivorous leaves – pitcher-shaped traps to catch insects – from non-insectivorous leaves (like those of other plants). The genome of this species – the second carnivorous plant with sequenced DNA, after Utricularia gibba – is relatively large, consisting of 1.6 Gbp, which is almost half the human genome. In all, the researchers have identified more than 36,000 genes. As detailed by Professor Julio Rozas, from the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics, «the ability of carnivorous plants to digest animals in impoverished soils is the result of the action of natural selection that has promoted several genetic changes on the same set of genes’. With the comparative analysis of the genes that are differentially expressed in the two types of leaves,

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