SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) – The Venus flytrap can stoke your curiosity or haunt your dreams, but either way, you generally can’t help staring when one of the carnivorous plants chomps down on a bug.
The hungry plant grabs prey using its highly specialized leaves as a trap. The leaves close on the target driven by an electrical signal called an “action potential trigger.”
Scientists in Berlin have discovered that when the lethal (to bugs) plant closes its jaws, it creates a small magnetic field.
“We have been able to demonstrate that action potentials in a multicellular plant system produce measurable magnetic fields, something that had never been confirmed before,” physicist Anne Fabricant said in a press release from the scientists.
Research published in Scientific Reports suggests the plant-level thinking observed could work like ours.
“It is well-known that in the human brain, voltage changes in certain regions result from the concerted electrical activity which, in the form of action potentials (APs), travels within nerve-cell arrays,” according to the research document.
“You could say the investigation is a little like performing an MRI scan in humans,” Fabricant said in a statement. “The problem is that the magnetic signals in plants are very weak, which explains why it was extremely difficult to measure them with the help of older technologies.”
The research explained that in the plant kingdom, there is a degree of electrical signaling, and it’s involved in the reception and transduction of light, temperature, touch, wounding and chemicals.
The research also found that even though human and animal magneto physiology is a well-developed field of research, very little of the same type of work has been conducted in the plant kingdom.
In order to measure the magnetic field, the scientists used a device called an atomic magnetometer.
“The signal magnitude recorded is similar to what is observed during surface measurements of nerve impulses in animals,” Fabricant said.
The discovery could be important because if the signals of other plant species can be measured, in the future, it could help with feeding us. Farmers may be able to get data from this type of non-invasive technology by finding problems via the magnetic responses without having to damage the plants using electrodes.