WATCH: Shocking video surfaces showing plants talking to each other

Japanese scientists capture real-time footage of plants “talking to each other"
A still from the video showing how plants respond to danger cues. — YouTube/ScienceAlert
A still from the video showing how plants respond to danger cues. — YouTube/ScienceAlert

A team of Japanese scientists, headed by molecular biologist Masatsugu Toyota from Saitama University, have captured real-time footage of plants “talking to each other”.

According to Earth, the study — which was published in the journal Nature Communications — was carried out by observing undamaged plants responding to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by other plants experiencing mechanical damage or insect attacks.

The study involved setting up caterpillars on leaves while the responses of a second, insect-free plant were placed nearby.

It should be noted that the plants observed by the researchers weren't typical, they were genetically modified to have biosensors in their cells that fluoresced green in response to calcium ion inflow. Human cells also employ calcium signalling for communication.

How do plants communicate?

Let’s understand how plants actually communicate. It is imperative to first know that the use of chemical signals is fundamental to plant communication. VOCs serve as messages to neighbouring plants. They can transmit information about environmental conditions, such as drought or pest attacks.

For example, when a plant is attacked, it emits specific VOCs that can be detected by nearby plants.

After getting the signal, these nearby plants strengthen their chemical defences in case another attack occurs.

Plants also communicate through electrical signals — a method reminiscent of the nervous system in animals.

Plants generate electrical impulses — when it is stressed or damaged — that travel throughout its structure.

These signals can prompt physiological changes in the plant, such as closing stomata to prevent water loss during drought conditions.

Scientists first discovered these plant defences in 1980, but only now do they have real-time footage showing this communication.