Evidence of Intelligent Design: Dung-Eating Plants

Your Curmudgeon delights in telling you about new evidence of intelligent design (ID), and today we have yet another striking example. The last time we were able to do this was Fossilized Dung Balls: A Dung-Based Ecosystem; and this is our classic ID post: Intelligent Design: The Dung Beetle’s Tale.

Now that we have stimulated your appetite for more of the same, we present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Resident bats use pitcher plant as toilet, which appears at the excellent website, PhysOrg. The bold font was added by us:

The pitcher plants are carnivorous species that usually feed on insects and small vertebrates, but one species has been found that prefers to dine on the feces of bats.

That is exciting news! Let’s read on:

Scientists from the University Brunei Darussalam and from Germany have been studying the aerial pitcher plant Nepenthes rafflesiana variety elongata, from Borneo. The plants live in peat bogs and heaths and are notable for their extremely large aerial pitchers.

Carnivorous plants are always interesting. Here’s a Wikipedia article on this particular species: Nepenthes rafflesiana. We continue with the PhysOrg article:

Pitcher plants grow on nutrient-poor soils and supplement their nitrogen source by feeding on insects and small animals. The victims are attracted to the pitcher by its colors and smells, but once inside they are trapped on the slippery sides and are drawn into the fluid at the bottom where they drown. The fluid contains digestive enzymes to extract nitrogen and other needed nutrients as the bodies are digested.

Isn’t nature grand? Here’s more:

Instead of insects in the large pitchers, the researchers, led by tropical ecologist Dr. Ulmar Grafe, sometimes found roosting bats.

The Elongata pitchers are perfectly suited to their residents, with a girdle half-way up to ensure they do not slip down the sides, and there is little fluid and so no chance of being drowned if they did slip.

Okay, so the bats live in pitcher plants. But you’re wondering: What’s the big deal here? Where’s the ID? You’ll see soon enough. Let’s move along:

The researchers found that about 33.8 percent of the foliar nitrogen in the pitcher plants originated in the feces of the bats, and the level of nitrogen was much higher than in pitchers of the same species that did not have a resident bat.

How wonderful — now that’s intelligent design! Here’s a link to the published paper: A novel resource–service mutualism between bats and pitcher plants. One more excerpt from PhysOrg:

The bat also benefits from the association because it is sheltered and hidden from predators when it is nestled within the pitcher. Dr. Grafe said the environment within the pitcher is also free of the parasites that often live in bat roosts.

A mutually beneficial arrangement. Verily, the implications for intelligent design are overwhelming.

And we leave you with a lingering question — something to keep you busy over the weekend: If a bat that feeds on blood is a vampire, what should we call these plants that feed on bat dung? (Please, dear reader, your suggestions should be … tasteful.)

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Evidence of Intelligent Design: Dung-Eating Plants

  1. In the Wikipedia article on the genus Nepenthes, I read:

    The pitchers of N. lowii provide a sugary exudate reward on the reflexed pitcher lid (operculum) and a perch for tree shrew species, which have been found eating the exudate and defecating into the pitcher. A 2009 study, which coined the term “tree shrew lavatories”, determined that anywhere between 57 and 100% of the plant’s foliar nitrogen uptake comes from the faeces of tree shrews.[12] Another study published the following year showed that the shape and size of the pitcher orifice of N. lowii exactly match the dimensions of a typical tree shrew (Tupaia montana).[13][14]

  2. Good catch, TomS. I think this plant could be referred to as a guanophile.

  3. Toilets for a particular species of mammal (or marsupial?) while everyone else just potties on the ground? Wow! The designer thought of everything!

  4. comradebillyboy

    Plants that feed on bat dung eh? I like Coprophagia KenHammus

  5. Who, but the greatest designer of all, could design all life to look so undesigned?

    Now do you believe?

  6. I wonder if those plants would be good to eat? I bet they’d be great with a bat wrapped inside, barbecued on a stick. Yummy!

  7. while everyone else just potties on the ground?

    And you really think you have sufficient evidence to say that about me?

    I’m not denying it, to be sure, I just would like to know what cause you have for such a claim.

  8. I’m amazed. AIG has a mention of this in their latest weekly news article. It’s the fifth item down here: News to Note, January 29, 2011. The relevant excerpt is this:

    “It’s difficult, to say the least, for us to imagine exactly what God’s original, perfect creation would have been like. But the world around us does offer clues. Starting with Scripture, then proceeding through the lens of careful research, we can imagine a world in which what are now “carnivorous” plants subsist entirely by recycling the waste products of other animals — no death needed.”

  9. Should we adopt this design from nature? Organic toilets, grown in greenhouses, and shipped to the home. No plumbing required – just spray the shower on it now and then. Of course, it might be a bit scary to have a human-sized carnivorous plant in the bathroom…

    It might be a good way to recycle waste, though. I wonder if the leaves are edible.

  10. SC – just saw your post.

    Holy crap!

  11. Ed says:

    Organic toilets, grown in greenhouses, and shipped to the home. No plumbing required …

    NASA could use this on the space station, and I can see the same “technology” being used on ships to Mars.

  12. PS – the foot note to the article in AiG:

    *There is an ongoing discussion among young-earth creationists concerning whether insects (the usual prey of carnivorous plants) “die” in the same sense that humans and more advanced animals do. If not, the “carnivory” of such plants becomes less of a challenge to creationists.

    huh?

  13. Ed says: “huh?”

    Teach the controversy!

  14. Oops! I was too general in my generalizing about potties. Of course, many humans use our intelligently designed toilets. Some of the ones in Japan are especially intelligently designed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilets_in_Japan

    And! We must not forget! The favorite potty of a bird is a newly washed car.

    Have I covered it now?

  15. LRA asks: “Have I covered it now?”

    Almost. There’s the latrine system developed by the Roman army. Our army uses the same system in the field. So your original comment wasn’t all that wrong.

  16. Too bad we can’t find a plant that likes to eat IDer’s

  17. retiredsciguy

    SC: “I think this plant could be referred to as a guanophile.”

    I’m no nomenclature expert, but shouldn’t that be “guanophage”?

    As in: “I never did like the guy; he seemed to always have a guanophagic grin on his face.”

  18. retiredsciguy

    Zarathustra writes, “Too bad we can’t find a plant that likes to eat IDer’s”

    The plants have evolved to eat the IDers’ droppings instead. MUCH larger supply.

  19. I like the bidet/toilet aboard the LEXX*. It has a giant wagging tongue to clean your butt.

    * A giant inhabited space insect, for those who don’t know.