I'm building an alien world for an artistic project. The world circles an m-dwarf star, and so the flora have evolved to photosynthesize longer wavelengths of light than on Earth, primarily in the near infra-red. I've come up with an interesting symbiotic relationship, however I don't know if its scientifically plausible. Here's how I think it might work...
Plants have evolved to make use of the near-infrared, with peak photosynthesis at around 1045nm. In my postulated symbiosis, the plant has evolved to feed on the infra-red radiation emitted by small animals in addition to the sunlight. During the day the plant turns its "leaves" outward towards the sun, but at night the leaves curl inward, through holes into a chamber within its "trunk." The chamber has evolved to provide a comfortable and attractive nesting habitat for small animals that in turn not only produce infrared for the plant to photosynthesize, but also disseminate the plants "seeds."
The big questions here...
Could an organism (the plant) evolve to make use of the the infrared photons a warm-bodied creature produces? And would it be advantageous? I'm skeptical, since the difference between the near-infrared used from the sunlight on this world (1045nm) and body heat (maybe 10,000nm?) is huge. One order of magnitude. If it could work, how? Would it be through "normal" photosynthesis in which the plant utilizes a larger number of infrared photons to drive the photosynthetic reaction (i.e. many more photons needed for the same energy). Or perhaps the body heat would help the plant drive a completely new chemical reaction that isn't photosynthesis as we know it?
If the plant can't evolve far enough in that direction, could the animal evolve to produce much higher wavelength radiation, perhaps as a normal by-product of its metabolism? So perhaps instead of emitting just "body heat" at lets say 10,000nm, maybe it evolves some beneficial or neutral chemical reactions to produce radiation at let's say...2,000nm, which might be a more plausible wavelength for the plant to adapt to utilize. I have zero idea on how that might work. I don't really even fully understand why humans chiefly emit at around 10,000nm, much less what the plausible range of emissions could be as a by-product of metabolic processes.
I'm okay with any ideas from the spitballed to the highly researched. :)
Edit: I've been getting some comments on there not being enough energy from the star to fuel complex plant life. This is not the case. The planet I'm working on is close enough to the star to receive more energy than the Earth does, however that energy distribution is strongly titled into the infrared. The planet would seem slightly dim to Earth eyes, but it's far from dark or lacking energy. The salient issue are the really long days/nights (let's say 13 Earth days of night per rotation). I figure there is plenty of opportunity here for plants to evolve other mechanisms for extracting energy from their environment during the many many dark hours.
Second Edit: Instead of thinking about this problem in terms of light/photons, what if we just consider it in terms of making use of available thermal energy? The animal is warm, the plant cold, the animal is inside the plant, therefore the plant WILL heat up, creating a thermal gradient from the interior outward. It seems like there could plausibly be some sort of beneficial biological work that could be done with this extra heat energy. Or am I thinking about this all wrong?