An astonishing discovery made during recent research took place. The scientists decoded the plant communication system for the first time and found out the once a plant is wounded it sends calcium signals to its other parts to warn about the possibility of an upcoming attack.
In a short video released by the researchers, we can see a caterpillar eating up a leaf. Shortly afterward, a bright fluorescent light emerging from the base of the leaf severed from the rest of the plant is transmitted to the rest of the plant. That’s the signal via which the plant is warning its part that a potential attack would come.
“For decades, it’s been known that leaf damage, inflicted by mechanical wounding or caterpillar munching, rapidly activates defense responses in distant, undamaged leaves of the plant. But what triggers this rapid response has largely remained a mystery,” said Gregg Howe from the Michigan State University Foundation.
Plant communication system decoded for the first time
Once a leaf is wounded, an electrical charge emanates across the plant to warn other parts regarding possible threats. The phenomenon baffled the scientists until now, but the researchers found out that calcium was involved.
After modifying a plant to create a protein that fluoresces in contact with calcium, the scientists were able to notice that indeed the plant communication system uses calcium to signal the tissues regarding a possible threat. Additionally, the researchers also recorded high levels of jasmonate, a defense hormone.
“We often think of plants as being passive and at the mercy of their environment. My jaw literally dropped when I first saw these videos from the Gilroy lab as they beautifully illustrate how active and complex plants really are,” Gregg Howe said.
Thanks to this recent research, we now have the proof of something the scientists already thought about. Namely, plants feel, and the so-called plant communication system is more sophisticated than initially imagined.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.