Denverian bug plants (also known as “Deverian plant bugs” or “Denverian sex bugs”) are an animal-plant hybrid species native to the southern continent of the planet Denver 3.
Categorizing this unique species is difficult, as it seems to be two distinct species with a symbiotic relationship. However, the fact that genetic material is shared between the plant and animal aspects – and that the two share a reproductive system – also allows them to be considered one species. The Denverian bug plant has subsequently been classified as a semi-mobile zoon (colonial organism), with the plant and “bug” aspects being constituent zooids.
The organism begins life as a seed containing genetic material of both plant and “bug”.
The plant is the first organism to develop from the seed, producing red photosynthetic leaves and later a series of carnivorous lobes. These lobes are similar to those of the venus flytrap plants of Earth, employing a trap mechanism to capture and digest small flying and crawling invertebrates. The plant is able to survive by photosynthesis alone, but the collection of protein and other nutrients via the carnivorous traps is essential to the reproduction of the organism.
As the plant matures and becomes successful in catching prey, pods begin to develop on stalks close to the stem. Inside these pods (known as “bug husks”) is the embryo of the animal zooid – the “plant bug” or “sex bug”. The bug is produced by the plant as though it were a fruit, and it feeds on sugars produced by the plant as it slowly develops. Each plant produces several bug husks.
Come summer, the “sex bug” is fully developed and ready to be released. It eats its way out of its birthing pod and clambers out into the world. The bug is now a fully mobile, fully autonomous, creature. It shares similar anatomical features to other small invertebrates found on the planet – the major difference being that it was birthed by a plant!
Though the term “bug” suggests that they are insects, they are in fact a quadrupedal invertebrate. They posses only a single, crude compound eye and rely heavily on their sense of smell.
The newly born “sex bug” is driven solely by the urge to mate. Having gorged itself on plant matter from its own pod, it will not need to feed again in its lifetime – a mere six days. The emergence of the creatures all at the same time of year increases the chances of the bug fulfilling its purpose early on. Swarms of them littering the forest floor near the Richmond Colony, all visibly engaged in mating, is how they earned themselves the name “sex bug”.
Each bug is capable of reproduction and has both male and female characteristics. However, there are two genders, identifiable only by the specific shape of their genitalia. A plant will only produce bugs of one gender, preventing mating among siblings and ensuring the spread of genetic material. (Let’s just say it’s like how you can’t put diesel in a petrol car – the nozzle won’t fit.)
After the mating frenzy is over, the impregnated bugs disperse, each carrying the seed of the next generation within them. Rather than laying the seed like an egg, the bugs find a suitable location to bury themselves before they die.
How this incredible symbiosis between plant and animal evolved is a mystery. One theory is that an ancestral insect specialized in laying eggs inside the closed traps of a carnivorous plant.
Artwork by Michael Beaudry.
Article by Mark Ball.