New research published in Science is providing an unprecedented view of the signaling action that happens within plants when they’re under attack. A second or two after a plant receives an injury, like a chomp from a caterpillar, a warning signal radiates from the location of the wound, spreading out through the entire plant in a process that takes fewer than 120 seconds. The plant can then respond to the threat by releasing chemical countermeasures.


The researchers were able to capture blazes of light surging through plants that operate like signals conveying information to its cells in response to stimuli. You can see this mechanism in action in the video above, which shows a glowing signal propagate like a wave across the plant after a caterpillar chomps off one of its leaves.