Speed and strength, suction traps unleash forces of astounding power.
Speed and strength: Bladderworts are Earth’s fastest-moving predatory plants, and their suction traps unleash forces of astounding power.
Prey rarely escape a split-second precision attack. As they are sucked into the trap, victims are subjected to pressures up to 600 g0 — exposure to this gravitational force would kill a human.
Sequence of a Bladderwort suction trap in action
Helping humanity: Although tiny, bladderworts have a huge appetite that is helping humanity. They devour the eggs and larvae of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and the larvae of human parasites including blood flukes.
Helping humanity - Bladderwort (Utricularia humboldtii) with mosquito larvae prey.
© G Bourke
How a Bladderwort traps its prey
Underwater peril - Along slender stems, small pods pump water out through their walls. This creates a vacuum inside: Each pod is spring-loaded and ready for action!
On the alert – Pods wait on a hair-trigger. Long antennae sway gently in the water … detecting vibrations from prey swimming nearby they instantly activate the trap.
High-speed strike – in under a millisecond a trapdoor opens, the prey is sucked in, and SNAP! — the door shuts. The stunned victim dies of anoxia and is digested.
Prey and habitat
Bladderwort prey includes insect larvae, worms, fish hatchlings, crustaceans and zooplankton.
They are found in waterlogged soil, fresh-water lagoons and streams in Australia, Asia and the Americas. Some grow high in trees — in wet moss, on bark, or in the water-tanks of bromeliads.
Suction traps activities
- Use plastic squeeze bottles, such as sauce bottles, to replicate the suctioning action of a bladderwort trap. Use it in a tub of water to suck up small items such as grains of rice.
- Use the photograph to draw a diagram of the features of a Bladderwort. Include a mosquito larvae in a suction pod. Use labels and annotations to describe the suction trap function of Bladderworts.