Sunflowers are fascinating. The oversized flowers are known for their sun-facing posture, but scientists wondered if there wasn't more at play with the sunflower's delicate "dance" with the sun.
A new study in Science demonstrates that there's more happening than a simple desire to catch more of the sun's rays. As the video illustrates, sunflowers have their own circadian regulation — just as many animals, including humans, do. This rhythm controls their growth and how they bend and sway to the sun's movement in the sky during the day; they also reorient overnight in anticipation of the sun's rise from the east. And this extra work pays off: Eastward-oriented flowers are warmer than westward-oriented flowers, and this extra bit of warmth attracts pollinators.
Researchers think that these finding about sunflowers could be applied to other species as well in future studies.