Rats! Or Not?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 28th, 2008


Remember the recent story of the discovery of a rat-eating pitcher plant? Do they or don’t they? Rats! Or not?

It sure kicked up a few pro and con feelings about the whole issue.

Some people wondered if pitcher plants can actually “eat” (i.e. dissolve and digest) rats?

Despite scientific literature saying it happens, skeptics exist.

Are the rats really mice?

Interesting distracting question, sort of like, how many times a week do you beat your husband?

How many rodents are eaten by your local neighborhood pitcher plants? Are rat-eating pitcher plants only found in Australia?

Do rodents actually fall for the pitcher plant traps?

How many rats does a rat-eating pitcher plant eat if a rat-eating pitcher plant actually eats rats?

Do the rat-eating pitcher plants really eat otters?

Have rat-eating new species been photographed on Mars?

Humm. Have I opened a whole can of rats?

To throw more data your way, here are some more pieces of the puzzle.

There are currently over 60 described species of rats in Australia, and they occupy a wide range of the habitats across the country. The majority of these are native species; however two rats (Black Rat and Brown Rat) are introduced species that have rapidly adjusted to Australian conditions.Animalcontrol.com

Additionally, below, here are a couple videos apparently giving visual proof of the interactions of rodents and pitcher plants.

Warning: Viewing these videos while eating may be hazardous to your keyboard, for vomiting my occur in rare cases. You have been warned and Cryptomundo will not be responsible for replacement costs.

These are followed by the comments of a German Cryptomundo correspondent who starts out with a negative stance on parts of the “rat-eating” issue. I’m not sure where he ends up, however.

There are always two sides, at least, to a story. Nature will find a way.

The following was forwarded by the German Sordes [I have noted my helpful English-language edits in brackets]:

This whole rat-eating-thing is nothing but [the] hype of journalists. I’ve been cultivating carnivorous plants of many kinds [for] many years, and own also a big personal “library” about this topic. In general, carnivorous plants don’t catch vertebrates at all.

The only vertebrates which are trapped comparably often (and that’s still rare) by some carnivorous plants are small frogs and small lizards. But normally they catch only insects. Only in extremely rare cases [do] a handful of very large pitcher plants trap small mammals, mainly climbing rodents. But this is only by chance, not because the plant “want” to catch them. Bigger prey, and this means already bigger insects like crickets, often begin to rot from the inside before the plant can digest it. The result is that the whole pitcher rots too.

In the case of small mammals, this is always the case. Such incidents are always accidents, for both, the mammal and the plant.

Furthermore, there are no real native rats in Australia, only some native mice. It is also highly [improbable] that this pitcher plant with its very slender pitchers and the short stem could ever catch a mammal.

There are some alleged reports of cryptid monster plants, mainly from the time around 1900. But they are all with nearly 100% chance only made-up tell-tales, especially the report from Madagascar. It describes a tribe which is nowhere else mentioned, and which is acording to the description much too primitive in contrast to the other folks of Madagascar, which were mainly farmers and fishers. The whole story stinks, and the way the woman was said to be eaten is also extremely [improbable].

BTW, there are NO fossils of giant carnivorous plants. In the whole there are only very few fossils of plants at all, because they only rarely fossilize. As far as I know there are only some fossil pollen of Aldrovanda versiculosa known.



Okay, Cryptomundians, what do you think? You be the judge.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Rats! Or Not?”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    Would have to see it to believe it.Rats a luck

  2. Ceroill responds:

    What’s the dividing line between a mouse and a rat anyway?

  3. CamperGuy responds:

    The difference is ewwww! & EWWWW call someone! 🙂

    On the comment of no fossil of carniverous plants…..Isn’t Ingenus Dionaea Muscipula reported to be a debatable prehistoric carniverous plant ancestor of man eating proportions?

    I am not going to watch the video to find out but if the pitcher plant does eat rats, I am sure it will be marketed as an organic vermin disposal unit.

  4. Sordes responds:

    Hallo Loren. There are indeed a handful of cases in which small mammals were found in the pitchers of very large Nepenthes-species, for example in Nepenthes rajah, a short growing species with enormous compact pitchers, with a volume up to four litres (containing about 50%fluid). Their pitchers are normally directly lying on the forest floor, so it can sometimes happens that small rodents for example become trapped when they climb on them and try to drink. There are only very very few Nepenthes species which would be at least big enough to trap rats, but there are only a handful of other species. This new species with its highly elongated pitchers surely not. The pitcher plant at the photo on the top is Nepenthes truncata, a species which rivals with Nepenthes rajah for the title “Nepenthes with the biggest pitchers”. Their pitchers can also grow extremely voluminous, and it is no wonder that on rare occasions small mammals become trapped on them. But in this case it did not happen in the tropical rain forest, but in a botanic garden at Lyon, France. And the alleged rat is, given its tiny size, much more probably a mouse. The second video was without any doubt placed by a guy who wanted to feed its nepenthes with a mouse, in nature this would happen only very rarely.

    The invention of the title “rat-eating-plant” was only for gaining publicity, because it sounds interesting and wakes attention, but in fact this plants Australian pitcher plants are no rat-eaters at all.

    No carnivorous plant ever specialized to capture big prey like rodents, not only because the digestion of such animals is highly problematic, but also because there are huge masses of small and easy-to-digest insects where they grow. It is really no wonder that there is only a small handfull of report in which small mammals were found in very big pitchers, and you have to keep in mind that there were already many thousands of pitchers which were analyzed by botanists.

    So to put it in a nutshell I have to say that I don’t doubt that some very large pitcher plants were found to have trapped and partly digested small mammals, this is a fact which I never denied, but this is not only a very rare and accidental event, but also only possible for very large pitcher plants, and highly improbable for this new-discovered Australian species.

    There is no indication for actual mammal-eating behavior in this new species, only the headline somebody invented to attract readers and attention. This is NO insult against cryptomundo or its moderators, as this headline appeared worldwide, and the fact that it did, shows well how it worked.

  5. Sordes responds:

    To come again on the topic why it is important if you speak about mouses or rats. I know I sound like a wisenheimer, but it really matters. No really for zoological or systematic reasons, but because a rat is much bigger. The mouse which was found at Lyon was already near the maximum size of an animal which could become trapped in such a Nepenthes with such big pitchers. A mouse has a weight of about 20g, but rats are normally in the range of 200-300g. They would be even for the huge N. truncata too big, and for the new australian species anyway. Only Nepenthes rajah would be able to trap a real rat. Actually there are only records of mammal-remains from N. rajah, this one case of N. truncata and also from N. rafflesia, another very large species with pitchers up to 35cm long and 15cm wide (but that´s really exceptional). And it seems that mammals become fall only on very rare instances prey to pitcher plants. The botanist and nepenthes specialist Ch’ien Lee from the University of Santa Cruz California for example, who studies nepenthes since more than a decade and examined them often in their natural habitat found only for one time the skeleton of a mouse in a big pitcher.

  6. lochnesshunter responds:

    I think even if they eat only mice they are still cool. I mean come on would YOU eat a rat (or mouse)? Neat discovery either way.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    A little reality check about rats in Australia:

    There are currently over 60 described species of rats in Australia, and they occupy a wide range of the habitats across the country. The majority of these are native species; however two rats (Black Rat and Brown Rat) are introduced species that have rapidly adjusted to Australian conditions.Animalcontrol.com

  8. gavinfundyk responds:

    I doubt those here at cryptomundo believe there is a rat-specific pitcher plant. That doesn’t mean it can’t catch and eat a rat. (Juvenile rat at least). And just because eating it would normally kill the plant doesn’t mean it always does.

    My one complaint, where’s the gross part of the video!?

  9. sausage1 responds:

    Now if it chased the rat around the room before eating it, THAT would be the business!

  10. DWA responds:

    If only for what-a-way-to-go purposes, ANY plant that can trap, and digest, ANY mammal is way cool. Accident or not.

    I think that one factor in the apparent rarity of sasquatch sightings is how many of them get caught by sas-specific carnivorous trees.

    But this is only speculation. 🙂

  11. Sordes responds:

    Okay, I was actually wrong about the biogeography of rats, but what I wanted to say is that the headline “rat-eating plant discovered” is indeed a hype of the medias. There is no indication that this plants ever trapped and consumed a rat, and given its maximum pitcher size of only 15cm (N. truncata’s pitchers which ate the mouse reach more than 35cm), it is also very hard to believe that this would actually be possible, so the description as “rat-eating” is not really the truth. Perhaps the very largest pitchers would be big enough to hold a mouse, but no rat. I have seen already many very large (and some huge) nepenthes in reality, including N. truncata, and the largest pitchers of plants on my terrarium were also in the 15cm range (and ways too small to “consume” even a mouse), and only some of the largest ones could actually trap a big mouse. If you look how new science discoveries are presented in the popular press and the medias, you can see that most headlines are not actually the truth, but only eyecatchers. If you write “new plant discovered” nobody will look at it, if you write “new insectivorous plant discovered” more people will look. “Carnivorous plant” looks even better, but if you write “rat-eating-plant”, people want to know more, even if there is no indication and probably even no possibility that this plant could actually eat a rat. But if you read “rat-eating plant” is sounds if there would be a plant which would regularly eat rats. And even if most people know that this is not the case, others won’t.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

|Top | Content|

Connect with Cryptomundo

Cryptomundo FaceBook Cryptomundo Twitter Cryptomundo Instagram Cryptomundo Pinterest


Creatureplica Fouke Monster Sybilla Irwin


|Top | FarBar|

Attention: This is the end of the usable page!
The images below are preloaded standbys only.
This is helpful to those with slower Internet connections.