Japanese Scientists Record Plants “Talking” with Each Other on Camera for the First Time

Tech Explorers
3 min readFeb 17, 2024

Watch: Plants Caught Conversing on Camera by Japanese Researchers

In a groundbreaking discovery, Japanese scientists have captured real-time footage unveiling the hidden language of plants, marking a historic milestone in botanical communication.

Led by molecular biologist Masatsugu Toyota from Saitama University, the research team published their findings in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, shedding light on how plants communicate with each other in the face of environmental threats.

The study revolves around volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by plants experiencing mechanical damage or insect attacks. These compounds serve as airborne messages, alerting neighboring plants to imminent danger and prompting various defense responses.

Yuri Aratani, a dedicated Ph.D. student, and Takuya Uemura, a meticulous postdoctoral researcher, were key team members instrumental in this discovery.

“Plants perceive volatile organic compounds released by mechanically or herbivore-damaged neighboring plants and induce various defense responses. Such interplant communication protects plants from environmental threats,” the authors explained in their study.

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To capture this intricate communication, the scientists devised an ingenious experimental setup. They utilized an air pump connected to a container housing leaves and caterpillars, along with another chamber containing Arabidopsis thaliana, a common weed from the mustard family. The Arabidopsis plants were genetically modified to fluoresce green upon detecting calcium ions, which act as stress messengers.

Through meticulous observation and sophisticated technology, the team recorded how undamaged plants responded to the VOCs emitted by their distressed counterparts. The footage revealed a fascinating display of plant-to-plant communication, as the undamaged plants swiftly recognized the danger cues and initiated defense mechanisms in response.

“We have finally unveiled the intricate story of when, where, and how plants respond to airborne ‘warning messages’ from their threatened neighbors,” Mr. Toyota remarked, emphasizing the pivotal role of this hidden communication network in safeguarding neighboring plants from imminent threats.

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Further analysis of the airborne compounds identified two key compounds, Z-3-HAL and E-2-HAL, responsible for inducing calcium signals in Arabidopsis plants, adding depth to our understanding of plant communication mechanisms.

Expanding on this groundbreaking research, the team also explored communication signals in Mimosa pudica plants, known for their rapid leaf movements in response to touch. This comprehensive approach underscores the universality of plant communication across species, highlighting its significance in ecological interactions.

The implications of this discovery extend far beyond the realm of scientific curiosity. Understanding plant communication is crucial for unlocking the mysteries of ecological relationships and developing innovative strategies for agriculture, forestry, and conservation efforts.

This research unveils a hidden world of botanical dialogue, where chemical signals, electrical impulses, and underground networks intertwine to facilitate plant communication. As we unravel the secrets of this silent symphony, we gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable interconnectedness of life on Earth.

Article Source: Japanese Scientists Record Plants “Talking” with Each Other on Camera for the First Time



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