February 20, 2013 9:45 am
In carnivorous plants like the venus flytrap or pitcher plants—plants that get their nutrients not from the soil in which they grow but by consuming hapless insects—scientists have discovered an unusual property, says the BBC: some carnivorous plants can glow with a blue fluorescence, a ultraviolet sign to draw their prey’s attention.
The blue glow was revealed on the inner sides of Venus flytraps when scanned at UV 366nm. And distinct blue fluorescence appeared on the lids, interior pitcher tubes and peristomes (upper rims) of pitcher plants.
After identifying that fluorescent emissions were coming from the traps of venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants, researchers tested to see if prey insects are actually attracted to the blue lights. They blocked the fluorescent regions, and waited.
The plants’ prey capture success reduced drastically over the 10-day period when their blue emissions were hidden.
This indicates that blue fluorescence acts as a “very significant signal” in attracting prey, Dr Baby explained.
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.