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New carnivorous plant discovered in Brazil thanks to social network photo

New carnivorous plant discovered in Brazil thanks to social network photo

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Plant found in MG uses sticky substance to catch insects. Brazilian experts began study by seeing photo on Facebook.

Brazilian researchers discovered a new species of carnivorous plant after a photo of it was published on Facebook. Paulo Gonella, who studies plants of the genus Drosera at his doctorate from the University of São Paulo (USP), acknowledged that it was a hitherto unknown variety of science just looking at the image shared on the social network by a friend of his and who originally was posted by an orchidist after a hike in mountains near the city of Governador Valadares in Minas Gerais.

Brazilian researcher Paulo Gonella holds sample of carnivorous plant visiting mountains in Minas Gerais

“Just seeing the picture at first gave rise to the suspicion that it was a new species. She looked very different. I contacted the photographer and three months later we were traveling to study her. Getting there and seeing it live confirms our suspicion, ”the researcher tells G1.

Gonella, who holds a Ph.D. (course with part of the study at another institution) and also studies at the Munich Botanical Garden, Germany, conducted the research in partnership with fellow Brazilian Fernando Rivadavia, who lives in the United States.

The carnivorous plant Drosera magnifica catches little bugs on their leaves

The study began in 2013 and was published in the international journal "Phytotaxa" last Friday (24), with the help of Andreas Fleischmann, a researcher at the Munich Botanical Garden.

In the survey, the group found that the plant is the largest of the genus Drosera in the Americas and one of the three largest of its kind in the world, says Gonella. It can reach a length of over 1.5 m with leaves up to 24 cm. Because of its size and exceptional appearance, the new species was named Drosera magnifica.

The leaves of the plant have "tentacles" that release drops of a sticky substance that can trap small insects, the source of its carnivorous diet. The "tentacles", in fact foliage glands, are red and glistening, and their look in contrast to green is what attracts small arthropods.

Like most species of the Drosera genus, the leaves and "tentacles" move, may even bend, and trap prey by releasing more of the sticky substance that resembles dew droplets - hence the popular name "dewy" plants. of the genre. The insects suffocate and are digested by enzymes expelled by the plant. Animals are a source of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Plant glands release sticky substance that traps small insects, which suffocate to death and are digested by enzymes

In fact, upon arriving in the mountainous area of ​​Minas Gerais, the researchers found the Drosera magnifica covered with many insects.

Our expectation is that the new plant will serve as a flag to preserve the place where it was discovered, which is a promising region for the discovery of new species. "

Brazilian researchers returned to the region in 2014 to see if the plant was in other mountains of the region, but did not find it. “It seems to be endemic to this single mountain and it occurs at the very top,” says Gonella. The genus has about 250 species in tropical areas around the world.

Being in a region that has already suffered much deforestation, the researchers point out in the scientific article that the plant can already be considered endangered, according to the criteria and categories of the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) red list, regarded as a world reference.

“Our expectation is that the new plant will serve as a flag to preserve the place where it was discovered, which is poorly preserved and a promising region for the discovery of new species,” says Gonella.

Carnivorous plant discovered in Minas Gerais mountain has been described as a new species of the 'dewy' genus