About this Research Topic
Darwin was fascinated by the multitude of physiological and morphological adaptations of carnivorous plants, and consequently referred to them as “the most wonderful plants in the world”. The carnivorous behavior evolved independently at least six times in five angiosperm orders in plants that live in barren, nutrient deficient environments. Carnivorous plants capture insects to get access to the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in their bodies. Their leaves are specialized to perform multiple functions; secrete attractive scents, capture insects, secret extracellular digestive enzymes, absorb nutrients, photosynthesize, and develop symbioses. Despite their independent origins, there is a remarkable morphological convergence of the traps and physiological convergence of the mechanisms for digesting and assimilating prey. These charismatic plants have evolved at least five major types of insect-capturing mechanisms and can also be autotropic under certain sentimental conditions. These complex plants can be unique models for studying rapid organ movements, excitability, enzyme secretion, nutrient absorption, food-web relationships, phylogenetic and intergeneric relationships, symbiosis, cross-species regulatory networks, and convergent evolution. The genomics revolution is giving us novel insights into the evolutionary history of these plants and the nature of their unique adaptations. For instance, the U. gibba genome reveals the role of small-scale tandem duplications in the carnivorous adaptation; a potential explanation of the evolution of carnivorous traits, such as attraction, trapping digestions and absorption came from the genome of C. follicularis; and a mapping population including F1, F2 and BC and their genetic linkage map have been developed for the Sarracenia species. To increase our functional understanding of carnivorous plants further, these findings need to be related to the unique properties of their habitats and interactions among plants, with insects and microbes. The multiple origins and evolutionary convergence of their specific nutrient economics renders carnivorous plants most interesting study systems in functional ecology. Altogether, these advances are ushering a new era of understanding of plant carnivory at genomics, molecular and ecological functions, and evolutionary levels.
The majority of the published research on carnivorous plants is focused on their morphological and physiological adaptions, and their roles in their ecological communities. The technological advancements in genomic techniques opened the door for studying the genomes of carnivorous plants and gaining insight into the mechanisms underlining the various types of carnivorous adaptations and the inter-species interactions in which these plants participate. Using genomics, we are beginning to learn about the genes underpinning the carnivorous traits and their origins in the autotrophic plants, the regulatory gene networks involved in the attraction, capturing and digestion of insects, the interaction with the hosted microbial communities, and overall ecological functions. Several genomes, transcriptomes, diversity and phenotypic datasets of carnivorous plants have been published already, with more to come in the near future. Here we propose a Research Topic that covers a wide array of research on carnivorous plants, ranging from omics to prey interactions. We will cover themes related to evolution, phylogenomics, comparative genomic analysis, regulatory function networks, symbiosis, the genetic basis of carnivory, and functional ecology. Our goal is to create a publication hub for the omics and ecological research of carnivorous plants. We plan to bring the newest genomics research together with discussions on functional traits and trophic interactions, and how a genomics perspective might provide novel insights into future studies of the functions of carnivorous plants and their habitats.
We welcome submission of Original Research, Review and Mini Review manuscripts around:
• Genomic studies covering the sequencing, annotation, and comparative analysis of carnivorous plant genomes and transcriptomes, carnivorous genomic databases and comparative platforms.
• Genetic studies on the mechanisms of carnivory, including QTL, eQTL, and linkage maps.
• Phylogenomic, evolutionary, and biodiversity studies.
• Studies on the functional ecology of carnivorous plants and the utility of genomic approaches for understanding the evolution of ecological function.
• Studies on the microbiome and insectome of carnivorous plants, and the ecological genetic factors affecting the microbiome assembly and insect luring mechanisms.
Please note that submissions of descriptive collections of transcripts without relevant functional characterization of differentially expressed transcripts are outside the scope of the journal and will not be considered for review.
Image credit: Mason McNair, University of Georgia.
Keywords: Carnivorous plants, Genomics, Genetics, Microbiome
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.