New Species of Carnivorous Plant Discovered in Facebook Photos

Paulo Gonella, Facebook
Paulo Gonella, Facebook / Paulo Gonella, Facebook

Social media haters, take note: Facebook can be used for so much more than stalking your exes. Like, for example, making a scientific discovery.

Researchers recently identified a new species of carnivorous plant using the social media platform. “It is the first plant that was discovered on Facebook,” claims Andreas Fleischmann, a carnivorous plant expert with the Botanical State Collection of Munich and co-author of the paper announcing the discovery, which appeared in the journal Phytotaxa [PDF].

A photo of the newly named Drosera magnifica (“magnificent sundew”) was uploaded to Facebook by Reginaldo Vasconcelos, an amateur researcher who photographed the plant on a mountaintop in Minas Gerais, Brazil in 2013. The huge plant, which can grow to be nearly 5 feet long, is “regarded as the largest New World sundew and one of the three largest Drosera species,” according to the paper. Its nearly 10-inch, thin, sticky leaves trap insects as big as dragonflies. The insects give the plants, which often grow in nutrient-deficient soil, an extra boost of nutrients.

The scientists were surprised the plant hadn't already been discovered, since the mountain on which it grows is easily accessible. So far, though, the sundew has only been found on that mountain—and the plant is already considered critically endangered. The forest surrounding the mountain has been cleared to make room for cattle ranches and eucalyptus plantations. “We hope that the discovery of such an extraordinary new plant species will bring attention to the conservation of this fragile ecosystem,” Paulo Gonella, from the Systematic Botany Labs of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, said, noting that the area is so poorly botanized that it might have other plant species that are new to science.

[h/t Inverse]