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Crocs no match in trapdoor plant find in WA

April 28, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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Researchers trekked through a crocodile infested river to find this carnivorous bladderwort plant, Utricularia baliboongarnang. Picture: Australian Institute of Botanical Science media_cameraResearchers trekked through a crocodile infested river to find this carnivorous bladderwort plant, Utricularia baliboongarnang. Picture: Australian Institute of Botanical Science

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Australian researchers trekked for three days in a crocodile-infested river to find a threatened carnivorous* plant that captures its prey with a trapdoor.

While there have been numerous searches for the elusive* bladderwort, theirs is the first to record it at Kununurra in Western Australia since two original collections were recorded in 1978 and 1982.

NATIONAL HERBARIUM media_cameraDr Richard Jobson tried four times to find the carnivorous Utricularia baliboongarnang in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Picture: Christian Gilles

Dr Richard Jobson, from the Australian Institute of Botanical Science, had tried four times to find the swamp-dwelling* bladderwort, known as Utricularia baliboongarnang, in the Kimberley region.

“What we found was located in a ‘highly restricted’ area, in a habitat on the edge of the Ord River which is infested with crocodiles. We virtually had to circumnavigate the large swamp which is more than 4km in circumference,” Dr Jobson said.

media_cameraA crocodile keeps an eye on people fishing in the Ord River, which is where researchers found a rare carnivorous plant. Picture: Cherie Parry

The plant has two different types of bladder traps it uses to catch different prey, such as tiny crustaceans*, nematodes* and water mites*. It grows in wet sand in large swamps and flowers from March to April.

There are about 200 species of bladderworts across the globe, with their traps ranging in size from 0.2mm to 1.2cm long. Utricularia species occur almost always in wetlands.

Dr Jobson has found other Utricularia species in Northern Australia, including in Cape York in Queensland in 2015.

media_cameraDr Richard Jobson found this Ultricularia species in Cape York, Queensland in 2015. Picture: Dr Richard Jobson

He recommended more surveys of other swamps in the Kimberley region to fully understand Utricularia baliboongarnang’s distribution and to assess its conservation status.

The researchers consulted local Indigenous communities to select the plant’s name. The chosen name – baliboongarnang – means “swamp-dwelling”.

“Work like this is important in understanding the true distribution of rare and threatened plants so we can better conserve and manage their habitats,” Dr Jobson said.

GLOSSARY

  • carnivorous: feeding on animals, meat
  • elusive: hard to find
  • swamp-dwelling: living or existing in a swamp
  • crustaceans: a type of animal that has a hard shell and lives mostly in water
  • nematodes: a type of worm
  • water mites: tiny bugs that live in water

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many days did the researchers trek to find the plant?
  2. Which river did they trek through?
  3. Which state is this river in?
  4. What does the plant use to trap its prey?
  5. Where did the plant’s name, Utricularia baliboongarnang, come from?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Take action!
Write a list of actions that we could take to conserve the habitats of rare plants like baliboongarnang.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography

2. Extension
Use the information in the story to write and design a Guide to the Bladderwort. The purpose of your guide is to help teachers to understand the most interesting and important facts about the plants so that they can teach kids about them. Don’t forget to include drawings or pictures.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography

VCOP ACTIVITY
To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.

Think about:

  • What is the main topic or idea?
  • What is an important or interesting fact?
  • Who was involved (people or places)?

Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific and well punctuated.

Extra Reading in environment