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This is a tomato plant,
and this is an aphid slowly killing the tomato plant
by sucking the juice out of its leaves.
The tomato is putting up a fight using both physical and chemical defenses
to repel the attacking insects.
But that's not all.
The tomato is also releasing compounds that signal nearby tomato plants
to release their own insect repellent.
Plants are constantly under attack.
They face threats ranging from microscopic fungi and bacteria,
small herbivores, like aphids, caterpillars, and grasshoppers,
up to large herbivores, like tortoises, koalas, and elephants.
All are looking to devour plants to access the plentiful nutrients
and water in their leaves, stems, fruits, and seeds.
But plants are ready with a whole series of internal and external defenses
that make them a much less appealing meal,
or even a deadly one.
Plants' defenses start at their surface.
The bark covering tree trunks is full of lignin,
a rigid web of compounds that's tough to chew
and highly impermeable to pathogens.
Leaves are protected by a waxy cuticle
that deters insects and microbes.
Some plants go a step further with painful structures
to warn would-be predators.
Thorns, spines, and prickles discourage bigger herbivores.
To deal with smaller pests, some plants' leaves have sharp hair-like structures
called trichomes.
The kidney bean plant sports tiny hooks to stab the feet of bed bugs
and other insects.
In some species, trichomes also dispense chemical irritants.
Stinging nettles release a mixture of histamine and other toxins
that cause pain and inflammation when touched.
For other plant species, the pain comes after an herbivore's first bite.
Spinach,
kiwi fruit,
pineapple,
fuchsia
and rhubarb all produce microscopic needle-shaped crystals called raphides.
They can cause tiny wounds in the inside of animals' mouths,
which create entry points for toxins.
The mimosa plant has a strategy designed to prevent herbivores
from taking a bite at all.
Specialized mechanoreceptor cells detect touch
and shoot an electrical signal through the leaflet to its base
causing cells there to release charged particles.
The buildup of charge draws water out of these cells
and they shrivel, pulling the leaflet closed.
The folding movement scares insects away
and the shrunken leaves look less appealing to larger animals.
If these external defenses are breached,
the plant immune system springs into action.
Plants don't have a separate immune system like animals.
Instead, every cell has the ability to detect and defend against invaders.
Specialized receptors can recognize molecules that signal the presence
of dangerous microbes or insects.
In response, the immune system initiates a battery of defensive maneuvers.
To prevent more pathogens from making their way inside,
the waxy cuticle thickens and cell walls get stronger.
Guard cells seal up pores in the leaves.
And if microbes are devouring one section of the plant,
those cells can self-destruct to quarantine the infection.
Compounds toxic to microbes and insects are also produced,
often tailor-made for a specific threat.
Many of the plant molecules that humans have adopted
as drugs, medicines and seasonings
evolved as part of plants' immune systems because they're antimicrobial,
or insecticidal.
An area of a plant under attack can alert other regions using hormones,
airborne compounds,
or even electrical signals.
When other parts of the plant detect these signals,
they ramp up production of defensive compounds.
And for some species, like tomatoes,
this early warning system also alerts their neighbors.
Some plants can even recruit allies to adopt a strong offense
against their would-be attackers.
Cotton plants under siege by caterpillars
release a specific cocktail of ten to twelve chemicals into the air.
This mixture attracts parasitic wasps that lay eggs inside the caterpillars.
Plants may not be able to flee the scene of an attack,
or fight off predators with teeth and claws,
but with sturdy armor,
a well-stocked chemical arsenal,
a neighborhood watch,
and cross-species alliances,
a plant isn't always an easy meal.
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【TED-Ed】The amazing ways plants defend themselves - Valentin Hammoudi

6281 Folder Collection
osmend published on March 2, 2018    Bruce Hsu translated    Stephanie reviewed
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