Scientists expose the genetic flukes which gave carnivorous plants a taste for flesh

NORMALLY, plants are eaten by animals.

But there are a few species which flip this assumption on its head.

Now scientists have exposed the genetic history of one of the world's most bizarre species of carnivorous plants.

A team of experts from the University of Buffalo analysed several species of pitcher plant, which eat insects by tempting them into a trap and then digesting them.

Some varieties of this creepy species are said to look like human eyes, making them even more unsettling.

They found that the different varieties of pitcher plant found across the world showed a "strikingly similar" genetic history.

"It suggests that there are only limited pathways for becoming a carnivorous plant," said University at Buffalo biologist Victor A. Albert.

"These plants have a genetic tool kit, and they're trying to come up with an answer to the problem of how to become carnivorous. And in the end, they all come up with the same solution."

Pitcher plants kill by luring insects into "a cupped leaf with a waxy, slippery interior that makes it difficult to climb out".

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Once they fall in, the unlucky victims are digested and then absorbed.

The latest research suggests different species insect-eating plants used the a very similar sort of digestive enzyme.

It is believed this deadly juice evolved from an enzyme used by previous plants, which may have slowly turned into a killer chemical because the plants had nothing else to eat.

"Carnivorous plants often live in nutrient-poor environments, so the ability to trap and digest animals can be indispensable given the dearth of other sources of nourishment," said Kenji Fukushima  of the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan.

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