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- Insectivorous Plants - 70/80 -

FIG. 22. (Utricularia neglecta.) One of the quadrifid processes greatly enlarged.

ticles slowly change their positions, and travel from one end to the other of the arms, but are commonly found near their bases. They are present in the quadrifids of young bladders, when only about a third of their full size. They do not resemble ordinary nuclei, but I believe that they are nuclei in a modified condition, for when absent, I could occasionally just distinguish in their places a delicate halo of matter, including a darker spot. Moreover, the quadrifids of Utricularia montana contain rather larger and much [page 404] more regularly spherical, but otherwise similar, particles, which closely resemble the nuclei in the cells forming the walls of the bladders. In the present case there were sometimes two, three, or even more, nearly similar particles within a single arm; but, as we shall hereafter see, the presence of more than one seemed always to be connected with the absorption of decayed matter.

The inner side of the collar (see the previous fig. 20) is covered with several crowded rows of processes, differing in no important respect from the quadrifids, except in bearing only two arms instead of four; they are, however, rather narrower and more delicate. I shall call them the bifids. They project into the bladder, and are directed towards its posterior end. The quadrifid and bifid processes no doubt are homologous with the papillae on the outside of the bladder and of the leaves; and we shall see that they are developed from closely similar papillae.

The Uses of the several Parts.--After the above long but necessary description of the parts, we will turn to their uses. The bladders have been supposed by some authors to serve as floats; but branches which bore no bladders, and others from which they had been removed, floated perfectly, owing to the air in the intercellular spaces. Bladders containing dead and captured animals usually include bubbles of air, but these cannot have been generated solely by the process of decay, as I have often seen air in young, clean, and empty bladders; and some old bladders with much decaying matter had no bubbles.

The real use of the bladders is to capture small aquatic animals, and this they do on a large scale. In the first lot of plants, which I received from the New Forest early in July, a large proportion of the fully [page 405] grown bladders contained prey; in a second lot, received in the beginning of August, most of the bladders were empty, but plants had been selected which had grown in unusually pure water. In the first lot, my son examined seventeen bladders, including prey of some kind, and eight of these contained entomostracan crustaceans, three larvae of insects, one being still alive, and six remnants of animals so much decayed that their nature could not be distinguished. I picked out five bladders which seemed very full, and found in them four, five, eight, and ten crustaceans, and in the fifth a single much elongated larva. In five other bladders, selected from containing remains, but not appearing very full, there were one, two, four, two, and five crustaceans. A plant of Utricularia vulgaris, which had been kept in almost pure water, was placed by Cohn one evening into water swarming with crustaceans, and by the next morning most of the bladders contained these animals entrapped and swimming round and round their prisons. They remained alive for several days; but at last perished, asphyxiated, as I suppose, by the oxygen in the water having been all consumed. Freshwater worms were also found by Cohn in some bladders. In all cases the bladders with decayed remains swarmed with living Algae of many kinds, Infusoria, and other low organisms, which evidently lived as intruders.

Animals enter the bladders by bending inwards the posterior free edge of the valve, which from being highly elastic shuts again instantly. As the edge is extremely thin, and fits closely against the edge of the collar, both projecting into the bladder (see section, fig. 20), it would evidently be very difficult for any animal to get out when once imprisoned, and apparently they never do escape. To show how closely the edge [page 406] fits, I may mention that my son found a Daphnia which had inserted one of its antennae into the slit, and it was thus held fast during a whole day. On three or four occasions I have seen long narrow larvae, both dead and alive, wedged between the corner of the valve and collar, with half their bodies within the bladder and half out.

As I felt much difficulty in understanding how such minute and weak animals, as are often captured, could force their way into the bladders, I tried many experiments to ascertain how this was effected. The free margin of the valve bends so easily that no resistance is felt when a needle or thin bristle is inserted. A thin human hair, fixed to a handle, and cut off so as to project barely 1/4 of an inch, entered with some difficulty; a longer piece yielded instead of entering. On three occasions minute particles of blue glass (so as to be easily distinguished) were placed on valves whilst under water; and on trying gently to move them with a needle, they disappeared so suddenly that, not seeing what had happened, I thought that I had flirted them off; but on examining the bladders, they were found safely enclosed. The same thing occurred to my son, who placed little cubes of green box-wood (about 1/60 of an inch, .423 mm.) on some valves; and thrice in the act of placing them on, or whilst gently moving them to another spot, the valve suddenly opened and they were engulfed. He then placed similar bits of wood on other valves, and moved them about for some time, but they did not enter. Again, particles of blue glass were placed by me on three valves, and extremely minute shavings of lead on two other valves; after 1 or 2 hrs. none had entered, but in from 2 to 5 hrs. all five were enclosed. One of the particles of glass was a [page 407] long splinter, of which one end rested obliquely on the valve, and after a few hours it was found fixed, half within the bladder and half projecting out, with the edge of the valve fitting closely all round, except at one angle, where a small open space was left. It was so firmly fixed, like the above-mentioned larvae, that the bladder was torn from the branch and shaken, and yet the splinter did not fall out. My son also placed little cubes (about 1/65 of an inch, .391 mm.) of green box-wood, which were just heavy enough to sink in water, on three valves. These were examined after 19 hrs. 30 m., and were still lying on the valves; but after 22 hrs. 30 m. one was found enclosed. I may here mention that I found in a bladder on a naturally growing plant a grain of sand, and in another bladder three grains; these must have fallen by some accident on the valves, and then entered like the particles of glass.

The slow bending of the valve from the weight of particles of glass and even of box-wood, though largely supported by the water, is, I suppose, analogous to the slow bending of colloid substances. For instance, particles of glass were placed on various points of narrow strips of moistened gelatine, and these yielded and became bent with extreme slowness. It is much more difficult to understand how gently moving a particle from one part of a valve to another causes it suddenly to open. To ascertain whether the valves were endowed with irritability, the surfaces of several were scratched with a needle or brushed with a fine camel-hair brush, so as to imitate the crawling movement of small crustaceans, but the valve did not open. Some bladders, before being brushed, were left for a time in water at temperatures between 80o and 130o F. (26o.6-54o.4 Cent.), as, judging from a wide- [page 408] spread analogy, this would have rendered them more sensitive to irritation, or would by itself have excited movement; but no effect was produced. We may, therefore, conclude that animals enter merely by forcing their way through the slit-like orifice; their heads serving as a wedge. But I am surprised that such small and weak creatures as are often captured (for instance, the nauplius of a crustacean, and a tardigrade) should be strong enough to act in this manner, seeing that it was difficult to push in one end of a bit of a hair 1/4 of an inch in length. Nevertheless, it is certain that weak and small creatures do enter, and Mrs. Treat, of New Jersey, has been more successful than any other observer, and has often witnessed in the case of Utricularia clandestina the whole process.* She saw a tardigrade slowly walking round a bladder, as if reconnoitring; at last it crawled into the depression where the valve lies, and then easily entered. She also witnessed the entrapment of various minute crustaceans. Cypris "was "quite wary, but nevertheless was often caught. "Coming to the entrance of a bladder, it would some-"times pause a moment, and then dash away; at "other times it would come close up, and even ven-"ture part of the way into the entrance and back out "as if afraid. Another, more heedless, would open "the door and walk in; but it was no sooner in than "it manifested alarm, drew in its feet and antennae, and closed its shell." Larvae, apparently of gnats, when "feeding near the entrance, are pretty certain "to run their heads into the net, whence there is no "retreat. A large larva is sometimes three or four "hours in being swallowed, the process bringing to

* 'New York Tribune,' reprinted in the 'Gard. Chron.' 1875, p. 303. [page 409]

"mind what I have witnessed when a small snake "makes a large frog its victim." But as the valve does not appear to be in the least irritable, the slow swallowing process must be the effect of the onward movement of the larva.

It is difficult to conjecture what can attract so many creatures, animal- and vegetable-feeding crustaceans, worms, tardigrades, and various larvae, to enter the bladders. Mrs. Treat says that the larvae just referred to are vegetable-feeders, and seem to have a special liking for the long bristles round the valve, but this taste will not account for the entrance of animal-feeding crustaceans. Perhaps small aquatic animals habitually try to enter every small crevice, like that between the valve and collar, in search of food or protection. It is not probable that the remarkable transparency of the valve is an accidental circumstance, and the spot of light thus formed may serve as a guide. The long bristles round the entrance apparently serve for the same purpose. I believe that this is the case, because the bladders of some epiphytic and marsh species of Utricularia which live embedded either in entangled vegetation or in mud, have no bristles round the entrance, and these under such conditions would be of no service as a guide. Nevertheless, with these epiphytic and marsh species, two pairs of bristles project from the surface of the valve, as in the aquatic species; and their use probably is to prevent too large animals from trying to force an entrance into the bladder, thus rupturing orifice.

As under favourable circumstances most of the bladders succeed in securing prey, in one case as many as ten crustaceans;--as the valve is so well fitted to [page 410] allow animals to enter and to prevent their escape;--and as the inside of the bladder presents so singular a structure, clothed with innumerable quadrifid and bifid processes, it is impossible to doubt that the plant has been specially adapted for securing prey. From the analogy of Pinguicula, belonging to the same family, I naturally expected that the bladders would have digested their prey; but this is not the case, and there are no glands fitted for secreting the proper fluid. Nevertheless, in order to test their power of digestion, minute fragments of roast meat, three small cubes of albumen, and three of cartilage, were pushed through the orifice into the bladders of vigorous plants. They were left from one day to three days and a half within, and the bladders were then cut open; but none of the above substances exhibited the least signs of digestion or dissolution; the angles of the cubes being as sharp as ever. These observations were made subsequently to those on Drosera, Dionaea, Drosophyllum, and Pinguicula; so that I was familiar with the appearance of these substances when undergoing the early and final stages of digestion. We may therefore conclude that Utricularia cannot

Insectivorous Plants - 70/80

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