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Carnivorous Plants in 3D: The Stuff of Horror Films!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Image Copyright: The John Innes Center

Professor Enrico Coen from the John Innes Centre (an independent research facility specializing in plant science and microbiology) has been awarded €2.5M EU funding to explore the growth and evolution of carnivorous plants. In speaking with research assistant Karen Lee, I am excited to learn more about both the scientific endeavors of the group, but also their plans for communicating about it. In addition to their main website, the ‘Inner Worlds’ project has a YouTube Channel, a Facebook page and a Twitter account to present their science to a wider audience.

One of their first communication projects is a short film that was created using ‘optical projection tomography’, a microscopic technique that allows the viewer to ‘dive’ into the cavities of a carnivorous plant. The technology is among the latest developed to reveal the inner structure of organisms. According to Lee, the 3D views provided using this technique are vital to capturing the plants’ developmental process. The video provides a look at the inner workings of four different, vessel-shaped carnivorous plants that have evolved independently. If you view it while trying to channel your inner insect victim, you will see them as formidable death traps!

It’s always encouraging to see such a commitment to both research and communication in a major research center. Kudos to the entire Coen lab!

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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