Generally, when one thinks of plants, we picture leaves swaying in a calm breeze or beautiful, harmless flowers and not electromagnetic waves and a carnivorous predator. However, both can be found in a plant called the Venus Flytrap. While the plant has been known to be carnivorous for a long time, new research suggests there’s more to their “hunting” mechanisms than previously believed. If you think magnetic fields can only be caused by machines or movement of planets and moons, think again.
The latest study suggests when a Venus flytrap snaps it mouth close on prey, it can produce a weak electromagnetic field around it. The plant has a large “mouth” filled with nectar which attracts insects. Once the prey falls for the deception, the “mouth” closes, trapping it inside.
“Wherever there is electrical activity, there should also be magnetic activity,” said Anne Fabricant, lead author. It has been established that living things induce a small electrical current and because of the laws of physics, every electric field must create a magnetic field as well. It is called as “biomagnetism.”
The electrical signals are from the plant’s action potentials which trigger the closure of the leaf lobes (the mouth trapping the prey). The team used atomic magnetometers to record the subsequent magnetic field that followed these electric signals. Fabricant believes these signals have never been measured before because they are extremely weak, too feeble for older technologies to capture.
Even though they believe the magnetic field has no effect on the plant’s daily functions, it is still the first to be ever discovered with such a phenomenon. Similar studies have been conducted on humans and animals, but plants have been largely left out of this.
The team used tiny glass sensors called atomic magnetometers. It contained a vapor of atoms sensitive to magnetic fields. “With the sensors in place, the scientists triggered electrical energy in the form of an action potential that flowed through the Venus flytrap,” reports the statement. Heat was used to stimulate the plant. They observed a magnetic field with a strength of up to 0.5 picotesla. It is similar to nerve impulses found in animals, the team observed. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.