The tiny bladderwort plant may not be much to look at - and yeah, its name is beyond silly - but it's the deadliest hunter in the plant kingdom. It can trap prey in less than a millisecond, over a hundred times faster than the Venus fly-trap and with an incredible 600 Gs of force - about twelve times what it would take to kill a human. Let's just hope these things don't develop a taste for human flesh.
Thankfully, there's not much chance of that, as the bladderwort traps are just a few millimeters in size, which is partially why they're able to summon up forces that humans can only replicate in the most extreme of conditions. The traps themselves are tiny, bladder-like structures that run along the plant's stems. So, unlike the more famous Venus flytrap, it doesn't actually have something we would recognize as a mouth. But that's not much consolation to the tiny crustaceans and protozoa that wander in the way of the traps.
Like the fly-trap, the bladderwort needs to be carnivorous because it lacks roots, which means it can't suck up nutrients from the ground like other plants. Instead, it has to go on the hunt for food, and its watery habitat is full of tiny organisms that it can ensnare in its traps. The actual snapping motion is too fast to be seen with the human eye, and no one had ever made a high-speed recording of the trap in action.
Researchers at France's University of Grenoble set out to change that, and you can see their awesome results in the video above - complete with suave French-accented narration. But how do the traps work?
The tiny traps generate all this energy by spring-loading themselves. First, glands in the traps pump out water. That means the air inside of the traps is at a much lower pressure than the surrounding water. The door of the trap bulges out, much like the shape of a contact lens. When prey triggers tiny hairs on the outside of the door, the trap leaves begin to collapse inward, crumpling until – bam! – the door opens and water and prey rush in.
Even more awesomely, if the traps go undisturbed for too long, the bladderwort starts opening and shutting them at random, which can disturb the surrounding area enough for plankton and other microscopic plants to rush in - making the bladderwort one of the very few omnivorous plants. And just as long as nobody figures out how to make them a hundred times their current size, that's perfectly fine by me.