A nineteenth-century riddle has been solved!
In 1879, the Australian journalist James Hingsley visited Indonesia. When he returned from his travels, he had many wonderful traveller's tales to tell -- including one about a red orchid which caught butterflies in its jawlike petals and ate them!
Of course, carnivorous plants are by no means unknown. The Venus Flytrap is just the best-known of many species which employ one means or another to feed on the more mobile lifeforms which crawl, flit or fly around our planet. But an orchid?
Now, finally, the truth has been discovered. And it turns out that one long-held suspicion was correct: the red orchid of Indonesia isnt a plant at all -- it's an insect!
Another Aussie bloke called James, Dr James O'Hanlon of Macquarie University in Sydney, studied praying mantises from Indonesia. And it turns out that the praying mantses are so adept at making themselves look like a tasty flower, that they attract even more insects and butterflies than a REAL orchid does!
"From the perspective of the pollinators," says O'Hanlon, "the colours of the flowers and the mantis overlap."
"They [the mantis] are quite large and there are very few flowers that get to that size and they are quite a bit brighter than the surrounding flowers,"
And while other mantises are camouflaged to hide AMONG flowers, "the orchid mantis has gone one step further and become the flower itself."
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