The Venus flytrap obtains nutrients from the insects it catches. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Mokkie
The secret behind the carnivorous plant's success is its ability to count how many times it is touched.
One of the most unusual yet recognizable plants on Earth - the Venus flytrap is a bizarre-looking specimen with a set of traps capable of ensnaring any insect that happens to wander in to them.
Exactly how the plant decides when to close one of its trap and begin digesting what's inside has remained a topic of debate for years, but now scientists conducting a new study believe that the secret to the plant's success lies in its rather remarkable ability to count.
Snapping one of its traps shut and initiating the production of digestive enzymes takes up a lot of energy and is something the plant can ill-afford unless it is sure it is getting a meal out of it.
To avoid closing its trap unnecessarily, the plant keeps track of the number of times that it feels something brushing against the trigger hairs inside its trap before deciding to proceed.
The first time it detects something the plant doesn't actually react at all other than to trigger an increased awareness that a tasty morsel may have wandered in. It's not until it feels something brush up against the trigger hairs a second time that the trap actually shuts.
Subsequent detections prompt the plant to begin digesting whatever it is has caught inside.
What makes this process particularly interesting is the fact that the plant is even able to determine how large or nutritious the caught insect might be and produces the correct amount of digestive enzymes to get the job done as efficiently as possible.