Although you won’t find this type of carnivorous plant undergoing studies at a college or coming up with theories that could rival those of Einstein, the fact that Venus Flytraps use math in order to catch prey is still rather interesting. This find comes from a research team from the Wurzburg University in Germany and the study was published in the Current Biology journal.
The Venus flytrap usually opens its mouth to catch prey when the soil in which it resides does not have the necessary supply of nutrients in order to lead a normal and healthy life. But how the plant decides how often it should set its trap and for how long remained a mystery up to this point.
By attaching electrodes to the plant’s lobe and stimulating the hairs present inside the trap, the team discovered that the pathway of the jasmonic acid hormone regulates is directly linked to the output of digestive enzymes. If an insect touches the hairs once, the plant is ready to close its mouth but does not do that if a second trigger is not present in a short timespan.
By doing this, the Venus flytrap effectively circumvents the possibility of a false alarm. If the insect moves for the second time, the trap gets activated, shutting down the plant’s jaws. Each subsequent trigger makes the plant produce more and more digestive enzymes in order to consume its prey. Simply put, if an insect gets trapped, it could easily escape if it would just sit and wait for a while because the plant will think it simply miscalculated, opening its jaws once again.
Seeing how basically the plant can count, researchers were rather stunned. Counting how many triggers were set, the plant can effectively judge the size and strength of the insect, producing a higher amount of digestive juices accordingly.
Even if at first glance this might not seem as an extremely impactful trait, it effectively helps the Venus flytrap thrive in locations were both insects and soil nutrients are relatively scarce. The plant can even calculate how many insects are present at a given time of day, in order to know when the trap should be set in order to gain the highest amounts of benefits.
Taking into account how Venus Flytraps use math in order to catch prey, the general public may think twice before thinking that plants are not that smart. Even if it may not be able to calculate 2 + 2, only having the capability to count, the plant exceeds expectations nonetheless.