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Rat-eating Plant Discovered in Australia 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the plants-doing-a-cats-work dept.
Megaport writes "Finally, the news that every slashdot-meme poster have been waiting for. A rat-eating vine called "Tenax" has been discovered in the rainforests of the Cape York region in Queensland, Australia"
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Rat-eating Plant Discovered in Australia

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  • Too Bad. (Score:5, Funny)

    by airencracken (993443) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @08:52PM (#22162146) Homepage Journal
    I figured it'd be more useful in the fire swamps.
  • or at least a full article :( does anyone have more information on these?
    • Pic and more info (Score:5, Informative)

      by MonkeyBoyo (630427) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @09:11PM (#22162328)
      picture here [cryptomundo.com], and there is even a Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org].
      • by MonkeyBoyo (630427) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @11:44PM (#22163358)
        I haven't been able to find online the paper

        "Clarke, C.M & R. Kruger 2006. Nepenthes tenax C.Clarke and R.Kruger (Nepenthaceae), a new species from Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Austrobaileya 7(2): 319-324.
        nor can I find a personal page for Charles Clark [wikipedia.org] who is now supposed to be at the Hong_Kong_University_of_Science_and_Technology [wikipedia.org].

        However the co-author "R.Kruger" is Rod Kruger [google.com] who runs Captive Exotics [captiveexotics.info],

        We are an Australian carnivorous plant nursery specialising in Nepenthes, or tropical pitcher plants.
        The first author Charles Clark seems to have an interest in this business [auscps.com]

        Rod kruger is selling them :) atm he is away but charles clarke is looking after his nursery for now.
      • There are a lot of popup ads that appear when you go to that link.
  • by MarkRose (820682) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @08:53PM (#22162158) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our Splinter eating overloads!
  • It is a form of pitcher plant so it probably evolved to capture insects. It's rat "eating" ability is probably co-incidental. Too bad there were no pictures.
  • revolution (Score:3, Funny)

    by Arellias (1122023) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @08:57PM (#22162208)
    the citizens of new york can now take back their subways from their vermin overlords.
  • by rowlingj (118872) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @08:58PM (#22162218)
    Australian Geographic magazine has an article on these plants. Apparently they are in an area which also has lots of saltwater crocodiles, so not even humans can claim to be at the top of the food chain there! http://editorial.australiangeographic.com.au/ [australian...hic.com.au] is the front page but the article does not appear to be on-line.
    • Humans are very close to the bottom of the food chain: Grass, Cows, Humans. That is only two up, while crocodiles, sharks, dogs, lions, vermin, snakes, rats, mosquitos, bacteria, viruses and many others are all above us.
  • Cool (Score:3, Funny)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @09:04PM (#22162270) Journal
    Now, how can I get my Ex to be around it?
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      from the pictures others have posted it looks like you would have to grind the ex into hotdog sized sausages.
  • by tcolberg (998885) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @09:12PM (#22162338)
    New York desperately needs them, especially that KFC-Taco Bell from a year ago (http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=113755 [ksdk.com]). Then again, maybe Washington needs them more for the big ones they have there.
    • The horror (Score:2, Funny)

      by the_fat_kid (1094399)
      dear lord, not Washington. They would go all kudzu crazy.
      Think Day Of The Triffids vs. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
    • New York desperately needs them, especially that KFC-Taco Bell from a year ago

      My mom sent me an article from the NYT print edition (couldn't find a link) about how rats are nesting
      in the engine compartment of cars (mmmm warm) and eating the insulation from the electrical wires in there.

      The rats are out of control here, truly..... I once had a date ruined when a rat brushed the leg of the girl that I was with.
      She pretty much wanted to go home and shower and curl up in a ball.

      Rats....
    • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @10:46PM (#22163000) Homepage
      Then again, maybe Washington needs them more for the big ones they have there.

      Tenax for President in '08! He'll clean up Washington!
    • KFC and Taco Bell together? *shudder* They should send the health inspectors to protect the rat from the food, not the other way around.
    • To be fair, NYC's got a huge rat problem that exists far beyond the kitchens of restaurants.

      Although most everywhere else, the presence of rats would typically indicate despicable sanitary conditions, finding a rat in NYC is sadly not all that uncommon, and can happen in even the cleanest and well-sealed of kitchens.

      Granted, the department of health *should* deal with the cases harshly to keep restaurant-owners on their toes, but the "I'm never eating there again" comments were overblown and ill-informed.
    • That wasn't a case of vermin entering the shop, it was a case of produce escaping.
  • Tarzan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @10:18PM (#22162828) Homepage
    Suddely those old Tarzan movies don't seem so far-fetched anymore.
  • wait, I didnt think plants would eat lawyers...heh, guess everything has its place on the food chain, huh?
  • Small Fry... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spokedoke (1211292) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @10:27PM (#22162898)
    Who cares about a wee little rodent eating plant when they have trees attacking cows in India! [newindpress.com]
    • Stories like this prove someone's messing with the time line again. The day before yesterday it was reading about Sweden's colonies and the Swedish East India Company.

      Harry Turtledove, knock it off!
    • Who cares about a wee little rodent eating plant when they have trees attacking cows in India!
      Nice to know that America doesn't have the monopoly on credulous boobs. Someone should tell them about Batboy -- they already have a dude with an elephant head, I bet they could be friends.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      India seems to have a lot of strange problems like this. They've also been under attack from space [theage.com.au] recently.
  • by Cathoderoytube (1088737) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @11:09PM (#22163166)
    Given that pretty much absolutely everything else in Australia is poisonous or capable of eating a full grown human being it doesn't surprise me that plants thewould start making things worse for other creatures as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Given that pretty much absolutely everything else in Australia is poisonous or capable of eating a full grown human being...

      That's not entirely true. There's one snake (Pailsus pailsei) here that isn't poisonous. Mind you, it survives by imitating a Brown Snake, which is.

  • If all the rats are gone; what will my mother in law eat?

    Ed
  • by dl107227 (632747) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @11:33PM (#22163294)
    Other links that discuss this plant mention pitchers that are 15cm. A 6 in pitcher is going to have a hard time holding onto a rat. Pitchers capture their prey by drowning. Fine, downward pointing hairs prevent creatures from crawling back out of a pitcher once they have entered. Again I have a hard time believing that this plant can regularly restrain small mammals. I don't doubt that an occasional small mammal may get trapped but I bet most escape. And a 6 inch pitcher is not all that big. The yellow pitcher plant of North America (genus Sarracenia (no close relation to Nepenthes))can have pitchers that exceed a 12 inches in length (they are more narrow however). Also, many Nepenthes species are vine so that mention in the article is likely from a journalist trying to increase his/her word count.
    • It may technically have been 'eating' the rat but there is no way that it actually caught the rat. It's much more likely that the rat was injured from a recent encounter with a predator and simply died while trying to hide itself inside the pitcher.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Well the rat could have been trying to get a drink from the pitcher.

        Maybe it got unlucky and drowned or maybe that pitcher plant secretes a fast acting poison into the water.

        Or it's a hoax :).

        • I'm sure the discoverer will want to conserve this rare species by breeding it up and selling the offspring into the not insignifigant number of gardners here who love these things.
    • by TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @06:19AM (#22165118)

      And a 6 inch pitcher is not all that big.
      You know... they've got pills for that.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      Other links that discuss this plant mention pitchers that are 15cm. A 6 in pitcher is going to have a hard time holding onto a rat. Pitchers capture their prey by drowning. Fine, downward pointing hairs prevent creatures from crawling back out of a pitcher once they have entered. Again I have a hard time believing that this plant can regularly restrain small mammals. I don't doubt that an occasional small mammal may get trapped but I bet most escape. And a 6 inch pitcher is not all that big.

      And this is wher
  • How long does it take to digest? Does it stink? How does a plant that small keep small rodents from escaping? I would think it would be hard to drown them, unless there liquid is tasty and sedative? More info please!
  • why dont you ever hear of these things.... which are WAY more seemingly complicated and amazing and "improbable", as the proof that god exists?

    oh yeah, that would be horrific.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @10:00AM (#22166940)

      why dont you ever hear of these things.... which are WAY more seemingly complicated and amazing and "improbable", as the proof that god exists?

      oh yeah, that would be horrific.
      I would love to see a Satainst make the religious argument for intelligent design. Parasites! Holy crap, there's some material. "Ok, here's the penis fish. You piss in the Amazon, this little sucker will follow the ammonia right up to your pee hole and dig in. It has barbs. And if that doesn't get you, let's talk about fresh water amoeba that will get in your brain and drive you mad! And let's not forget venereal diseases, genetic diseases, mosquito-born diseases. All of this created by God! He's got a thousand species of carnivorous mold, each species perfectly adapted to attacking a given species of ant! All of this playing out below typical human notice, below human care! How about the mud-dauber wasp, kidnapping poor defenseless caterpillars to paralyze them and leave them as a live meal for their eggs, to hatch and feast upon them? Yum yum! That is one sick motherfucker right there, folks. Now let me tell you about my guy..."
  • by tubapro12 (896596) <ubelkatze2004 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:58AM (#22163748) Journal
    Ode to Carnivorous Plants

    Your nutrients are derived
    From those so kin to me
    Yesterday, Mus musculus frolicked by you
    Today, the sweet smell of you absorbing his tiny brain

    Your large pitcher, an inviting opening
    But oh, the Musmanity!
    For it is full of your digestive fluids
    But wait, rain approaches

    Your operculum must spring forth, like an umbrella
    But all is fell, your pseudo-stomach is full
    Enjoy the rain, my sweet
    For one can only hope, you avoid your own pitfall.
  • Sensationalism (Score:4, Informative)

    by estitabarnak (654060) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:59AM (#22163756)
    Plants in the genus Nepenthes have been known to catch the odd large-animal from time to time. Notably, Nepenthes raja which have been observed to grow individual pitchers that are capable of containing volumes of fluid up to ~3.5 litres. You can find pictures strewn across the internet of a Nepenthes or other carnivorous plant having caught a rat, a bird, a bat, a toad, a shrew, but these are not the normal constituents of carnivorous plant diets. Generally larger fauna caught by carnivorous plants are suspected of simply looking for a drink and being sick or near death anyway. Often times, due to the inability of the plant to digest these creatures the pitcher will often suffer rather than benefit the plant as a whole.

    Some awesome, yet very unusual examples:

    A bat was caught by a Nepenthes and discovered during the North Eastern Carnivorous Plant Society meeting in 2007. Note that the bat (though it stunk to high-hell) is largely in tact, a testament to the fact that these plants aren't made for eating larger creatures. http://terraforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=110338 [terraforums.com]

    A treefrog caught by a venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) caught and successfully digested- all but the skeleton, of course! http://terraforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=93070&highlight=frog [terraforums.com] While a new species of carnivorous plant is always welcome, until enzymes produced by the pitcher, or a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and plant is found which specifically targets rats or other mammals, I call BS to the claim of it being a rat-eater.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      "While a new species of carnivorous plant is always welcome"

      Maybe by you.

      I only welcome the mosquito eating ones :).
  • A vine called Tenax that kills rats? Heck, where I work we have a vine called Twinax that could choke a horse!
  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:04AM (#22164654)
    Large Nepenthes have been known for many, many years. Do a search on Google images for "Nepenthes mouse" and you'll find examples of where people have had rats and mice fall victim to nepenthes in people's greenhouses so there's little reason it wont happen in the wild, although I suppose you could argue animals should be more wise to it in their natural environments.

    There was a story going around various carnivorous plant communities and quite honestly I can't verify it's truth but needless to say it seems plausible. There was apparently a zoo that had some large nepenthes in the monkey enclosure (They're often just called monkey cups because monkeys have been known to drink from them in the wild) and they had to be removed because baby monkeys kept falling into the pitchers and required rescuing before they began to get digested which in turn apparently made many of the children at the zoo observing the monkeys cry.

    You can keep nepenthes at home, some species are easy to keep as they don't need a massive amount of humidity and don't need especially warm temperatures but others can be kept in a greenhouse. Personally I keep one in the bathroom as use of the shower provides all the humidity it needs in that room and it does a decent job of dealing with spiders and mossies that make their way in there although be warned, the digestive process isn't particularly fast or terribly exciting, we're talking weeks or months. They do look impressive though, particularly the species with red pitchers or the combined reddish/yellow/green pitchers.

    It's interesting keeping carnivorous plants and I started it because I got fed up of insects in my computer room in the summer. I didn't want an insecticutor as the room gets too hot as is and I don't want to use even more electricity so I figured the natural route may be an interesting option, it certainly is. Sundew (drosera), Venus flytraps (dionaea muscipula), Pitcher plants (nepenthes and saracennia) and butterworts (pinguicula) are the best bet.

    If you are interested in getting started with carnivorous plants, I don't recommend trying from seed at first and you really need rainwater or distilled water (tap water doesn't cut it) but there are decent suppliers everywhere (www.littleshopofhorrors.co.uk if you're in the UK is decent). The one thing I will say though is please, if you are going to maintain your own creature killing plants use peat from sustainable sources or alternatives! There's no reason you can't keep this type of plant at home though if you can get hold of one from a legitimate source (i.e. not looted from the wild) which isn't too hard.

    What I really want is a rat catching venus flytrap or sundew, now THAT would be something ;)
    • ...They had to be removed because baby monkeys kept falling into the pitchers and required rescuing before they began to get digested which in turn apparently made many of the children at the zoo observing the monkeys cry.
      Stupid young'uns
    • Nepenthes Rajah is probably the most notorious rat catcher. The pitchers on average are about the size of a NFL football and dwarf these newly discovered ones. http://www.vcps.au.com/pics/plants/n_rajah.jpg [au.com]
    • re decent suppliers everywhere (www.littleshopofhorrors.co.uk if you're in the UK is decent).

      Is it just me or do the rest of you get the impression that the carnivorous plant lovers are looking at our current insectivore plans and think "Well, that's a nice start, but I want to see if we can breed them to eat bigger and better things!"

      I'm not sure who will end up killing us first, the carnivorous plant lovers or the people working on carnivorous, flesh-powered robots. (you remember the slugbot, right?)

      • by Xest (935314)
        I think you're right it is a worrying obsession, I really like cactus and succulents too but imagine my excitement when as a cactus and carnivorous plant lover I found out that Euphorbia, a type of cactus-like succulent that can ooze a toxic sap like substance that can cause human skin to blister. It's like the next best thing to a carnivorous cactus!
        • Ugh. The worst I ever read about was fiction, it had man-sized "tumbleweeds" which were mobile, self-steering plants that tumbled across the plains. They would roll over any animal they could, impaling them on their spikes. The nutrients would be sucked from the bodies which would decay, skeletalize, and then fall off due to the vibration of movement.

          I didn't like that place.
          • by Reziac (43301) *
            Sounds no different from the tumbleweeds we get in the SoCal desert -- some are bigger than a VW, and armed with hordes of small poisoned spikes. Largest one I've pulled up was over 8 feet across and it hadn't matured yet. When they're running loose in the fall, you don't want to get in their way!

  • Semore, is that you? Feed me!
  • According to this story (with picture), which is a tad more believable, the newly discovered pitcher plant can eat "up to" small lizards. It is only somewhat related to pitcher plants found elsewhere in Oceana, some of which do eat rats. But not this one.

    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23094097-3102,00.html [news.com.au]

    So whatever so-called journalist or editor said this is a "rat eating" plant should hopefully be looking for a new job, preferably one that doesn't require facts to be correct.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Darundal (891860)
      So he should get a job reporting for the Fox News Channel?
      • by Otheus (897195)
        Yeah, why not? Then they can pair up with the New York Times and USA Today in hiring bogus journalists.
        • Then they can pair up with the New York Times and USA Today in hiring bogus journalists.

          You mean bogus journalists like Jeff Gannon [wikipedia.org]? The guy who the White House vetted as a real journalist despite him not being one AND his involvement with gay escort service web sites?

          Or did you mean bogus journalists like FEMA used for a quickie press conference [latimes.com]?

          Those who live in glass houses and all that. . .

  • ... "then there are people out there who would take advantage of that."

    But here's a map to where they are, that is posted on the same friggin' article... map [abc.net.au]

    Certainly journalism at its finest... I would truly expect nothing less from a network called ABC news, I suppose.
  • Is that the sort of meme you were expecting?
  • So somebody that likes the Bush administration still exists?
  • I've seen rats eating plants all the time. Usually they like to eat food pellets too. What's the big deal?

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