Convergence in the molecular basis of carnivory

carnivoryCephalotus follicularis is a heterophyllous pitcher plant that makes two types of leaves, carnivorous and non-carnivorous. By growing plants at different temperatures, Fukushima et al. were able to get plants to produce one of the two leaf forms. They sequenced the plant’s genome and compared transcriptomes between the two types of leaves. Carnivory-specific (or enriched) genes include those involved in the production of nectar, slippery waxes and digestive fluids. The authors showed that a few digestive enzymes including a chitinase, a purple acid phosphatase, and an RNase, show a convergent pattern of amino acid substitutions amongst carnivorous species. They interpret this convergent evolution as evidence that “there are few available evolutionary pathways for angiosperms to become carnivorous.” Nature Ecol. Evol. 10.1038/s41559-016-0059