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Flowers communicate with electricity.


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Jennifer Viegas writes:

Flowers may be silent, but scientists have just discovered that electric fields allow them to communicate with bumblebees and possibly other species, including humans.

It's well known that color, shape, pattern and fragrances allow flowers to connect with pollinators, but the new study, published in the journal Science, adds electricity to this already impressive lineup.

"We just now have discovered that electrical potentials, an unavoidable by-product of flying in air for bumblebees and being grounded for the flower, is being exploited to benefit both parties," co-author Daniel Robert toldDiscovery News. It's "another example of the beauty of evolution," added Robert, a professor in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences.

Flowers Communicate with Electricity

He explained that bees have a positive electrical charge because they fly in air, which is full of all kinds of tiny particles, such as dust and charged molecules. Friction from these particles causes bees to lose electrons, leaving bumblebees positively charged.

Flowers, on the other hand, "are electrically connected to ground," he said. Unlike copper wire, which transfers charges very quickly, plants conduct electricity very slowly and tend to possess a negative charge.

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"We have demonstrated that when there is an electric field present, even a mild one, bees can learn the difference between two colors faster," Robert said. "So, like in a commercial advertisement, the main and obvious message can be supported by co-lateral cues that do not necessarily convey information about the product, but are easily associated with it."

Energy is communication. Cool.

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