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Flowers May Tone Down Their Iridescence To Avoid Confusing Bees

Update Date: Feb 29, 2016 11:57 AM EST

Interestingly, flowers may dim down their iridescence to accommodate bees. The iridescent petals, which look drab to us, may actually be customised to the bee's sight.

"In 2009, we showed that some flowers can be iridescent and that bees can see that iridescence, but since then we have wondered why floral iridescence is so much less striking than other examples of iridescence in nature," said Beverley Glover, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Researchers put out a few replica flowers that looked either "perfect iridescent, or imperfectly iridescent or non-iridescent". They then exposed them to the bees to check the reaction.

The bees seemed to locate the iridescent flowers faster than the non-iridescent blooms. However, it did not seem to make a difference regarding the "perfect" or "imperfect" iridescent. The bees seemed to quickly locate the replicas modeled on natural petals, as they were in finding "perfect iridescent" petals.

While checking how quickly they could locate the nectar-rich flowers amongst other, similarly-colored ones, the scientists found that "perfect iridescence" prevented the bees' skills in distinguishing the flowers. But the imperfect iridescence did not interfere with this skill.

"We have now discovered that floral iridescence is a trade-off that makes flower detection by bumblebees easier, but won't interfere with their ability to recognize different colors," said Glover.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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