Dionaea muscipula, also known as the flycatcher plant, is carnivorous and catches its prey using its leaves as a trap. Electrical signals trigger the closure of the leaves of this carnivorous plant. A team of scientists also discovered that while the flycatcher produces these electrical signals, it also produces measurable magnetic fields. Thanks to atomic magnetometers, it is possible to record bio-magnetism, that is, to see the magnetic fields emitted by plants.
“In fact, this is similar to an examination performed by pulling emar (magnetic resonance) in humans. The problem here is that because the magnetic signal in plants is so weak, it’s quite difficult to diagnose with older technologies,” says physicist Anne Fabricant.
Electrical Activity In Venus Flycatcher Linked To Magnetic Signals
We know that voltage changes that occur in certain areas of the human brain are caused by electrical activity that moves together in nerve cells. Electroencephalography(EEG),magnetoencephalography(MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques such as these activities can be recorded and diseases can be diagnosed non-invasive. And when plants are stimulated, they can produce electrical signals that travel through cellular networks, just like in human and animal nervous systems.
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (AHEM), Julius-Maximilians – University of Würzburg (JMU), Biocenter (JMU) and in Berlin, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) of Germany and the National Meteorological Institute of electrical activity in the magnetic signal associated with the Venus flytrap now showed. “We were able to show that motion potentials in multicellular plant systems produce measurable magnetic fields. This has never been confirmed before, ” says Professor, PhD candidate from Johannes Gutenberg University and Helmholtz Institute Dmitry Budker
The trap leaves of Dionaea muscipula contain touch-sensitive hairs. Touching these feathers creates an action potential that travels through the trap. Thanks to two successful stimuli(stimuli), the trap closes and the insects are hunted and digested. Interestingly, this trap can be electrically stimulated by different methods: for example, touch, injury, osmotic energy, salt-water loading, and hot-cold thermal energy, which can trigger movement potentials. The research team triggered the action potential using heat stimulation. Thus, factors that would disrupt magnetic measurements, such as mechanical background sound, were eliminated.
Bio-magnetism (detection of magnetic signals from living organisms)
Although bio-magnetism is a well-researched topic in humans and animals, there is very little equivalent research in the plant realm, and superconducting quantum interference (SQUID) magnetometers have been used in these studies. These machines are both cumbersome and work in cryogenic cold. But in this new study, the magnetic field of the Venus Flycatcher was measured using atomic magnetometers. This sensor uses a glass tube filled with the vapor of alkaline atoms. This device is a much more sensitive and small device for biological applications. It also does not need to be cooled to cryogenic temperatures.
In this way, researchers can detect magnetic signals up to 0.5 picotesla. So it points to a signal millions of times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field. ” This recorded signal is close to the magnitude observed in the nerve impulses of Animals, ” says Anne Fabricant.
JGU physicists plan to measure even lower signals in other plant species. In the future, there is a possibility that this technology will be used in crop-plant diagnostics in agriculture. So it may be possible to measure sudden temperature changes, pesticides or chemical effects without electrodes damaging plants.
Anne Fabricant, Geoffrey Z. Iwata, Sönke Scherzer, Lykourgos Bougas, Katharina Rolfs, Anna Jodko-Władzińska, Jens Voigt, Rainer Hedrich, Dmitry Budker. Action potentials induce biomagnetic fields in carnivorous Venus flytrap plants. Scientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-81114-w