The touch-me-not plant, officially known as mimosa pudica, quickly contracts its leaves when shaken or brushed by assumed predators. When one of these specimens senses danger like a nearby herbivore ready to take a bite, calcium erupts within its system, prompting exposed areas to recoil.
Scientists have known since the 1980s that other plants, not just those deemed sensitive like the touch-me-not, similarly transmit such warnings. And thanks to molecular biologists at Japan’s Saitama University, we now have visual evidence of the process.
A video released by Science Alert shows bright green quickly illuminating the leaves of the thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana. Researchers had genetically modified the plant so that when calcium flowed through their cells in greater proportions, a biosensor fluoresced. This color change occurred in response to airborne chemicals emitted by nearby plants overrun with caterpillars. The damaged specimens released the compounds to warn their fellow flora, which then triggered the calcium reaction in their neighbors.
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