WASHINGTON — A new study finds that fireflies flash not just for survival, not just sex.
Scientists already know that lightning bugs used their signature blinking glow to find a mate, but they suspected something else was going on. Boise State University researchers found it also keeps them from being eaten by bats.
They published a study in Wednesday’s Science Advances.
Bats don’t like the taste of fireflies. So researchers put bats that had never seen fireflies in front of high-speed cameras. After a few distasteful tries, the bats learned lightning bugs don’t make good snacks.
Then scientists hand-painted fireflies’ bellies to hide the light and saw bats get tricked trying to eat them.
Biology professor Jesse Barber says that suggests the fireflies’ flash first evolved as protection from predators.