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Letter 9740

Treat, Mary to Darwin, C. R.

2 Dec 1874

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    Observations on the insects captured by Utricularia.


Vineland, N. Jersey. Dec. 2, 1874. Dear Mr. Darwin.

I have been studying the bladder-bearing species of Utricularia off and on the last year, and am now fully satisfied that they are the most wonderful carnivorous plants that I have yet seen. The so-called little bladders seem to be receptacles for digesting animal food. Not only small animalcules are lured into these receptacles, but animals large enough to be distinctly seen with the naked eye; and by holding the little bladders up to the light the movements of the animals can be seen with the unassisted eye.

I have found the remains of several Cyclops in these bladders, and one living one apparently just incarcerated. But the largest animal, and one that seems most constant in these receptacles, is a snake-like larva with brush-like, telescopic feet— I cannot now recall its name— it is quite active when first imprisoned, thrusting out and drawing back its beautiful feet, but it is in such close quarters that this is about all it can do, coiled around as it is—the larger specimens with head and tail meeting.

Last evening I found one just incarcerated in a very transparent bladder, it being the sole occupant. It was very active with its telescopic feet and horns, but in the morning—some twelve hours having elapsed since my last observation—it had no longer the power of thrusting its feet in and out, it could only move the brush-like appendages, and a slow movement was visible in the dark intestine that traverses the length of the body; and now this evening, twenty-four hours having passed, no movement is visible in any part of the animal, but it is slowly disintegrating.

This is the history of many specimens that I have watched in the same way.

I never knew, not even a small animalcule to escape after once inside the bladder.

I have not heard of any one making observations on these plants, and so I thought mine of sufficient importance to announce to you.—

Yours respectfully | M. Treat.

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    f1 9740.f1
    This letter is not yet published in the edition of The correspondence of Charles Darwin; it is due to appear in volume 22. The text is being made available here ahead of print publication as part of the `Darwin and Gender' project funded by The Bonita Trust.
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