Utricularia gibba is an aquatic, carnivorous plant. Utricularia species, commonly called the Bladderworts, are found in aquatic areas throughout the United States living in bodies of water or moist environments, such as bogs. This specimen was collected in a pond in South Florida, but visitors to Everglades National Park would be able to see several Utricularia species. The traps of this plant are very small, only a few millimeters, and are easily missed unless the observer looks closely. Hundreds of traps are found along the plant body, a horizontally growing stem called a stolon. Bladderworts are the only carnivorous plant that catches prey by a suction trap. These traps actively expel water from the inside of the trap, or the trap lumen. While the traps excrete water, the trap sides are sucked in and the trap walls appear concave. Once the trap is set, it is ready to catch prey. Small organisms, such as rotifers, copepods and mosquito larvae, swimming in the water or grazing on Utricularia, may accidentally hit the trigger hairs, appendages at the front of the trap, and cause the trap door to open inward. Once the trap door is open, water and the unsuspecting organism rush in with the trap door closing behind the prey. After the trap has fired, the trap walls are convex and appear more round. Although complex, the trapping process, including resetting, takes only thousands of a second. Digestion of the prey follows capture via four and two-armed hairs inside the trap lumen. Carnivorous plants, including Utricularia species, are usually found in nutrient poor sites and their ability to trap and digest prey allows them to supplement available nutrients and survive in nutrient poor habitats.
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