In 1873 a biologist detected electrical impulses in a Venus flytrap which were the same kind of electrical waves seen in the nerve impulses in animals. Subsequent studies have shown that there are no nerve cells in the plants, but that waves of charged ions from sensory hairs cause some of the plant cells to expand rapidly closing the “mouth” of the flytrap. The system is slower than the thousandths of a second reaction in animals, but it is very similar.

Recent studies of plants have shown that when they are eaten, a chemical reaction surges through the plant that is almost identical to the neurohormonal reactions that regulate pain and injury repair in animals. When leaves get nibbled, they release a hormone resembling endorphins made by animals after an injury. In animals these hormones help to convert a chemical called arachidonic acid into prostaglandins which cause inflammation and pain, encouraging the animal to get help or treat the injury. In plants, the hormone helps convert linolenic acid into jasmonic acid, a chemical cousin of prostaglandins. Interestingly, the reaction is so similar to animals that aspirin or ibuprofen will stop it.

Jasmonic acid causes leaves to make enzymes called protease inhibitors which cause indigestion in leaf eating insects. The leaves also make cholecystokinin (CCK) which causes insects and animals to have a feeling of having eaten enough, which is making it a subject of study for diet pills. Jasmonic acid is also released into the air which causes nearby plants to turn on their defense mechanisms when leaf eating insects are around.

The similarity of plant mechanisms to animal mechanisms strongly suggest that they have been designed by the same engineer, who used the same principles to develop both of them. The complexity of the chemistry makes attributing this to chance a very dubious choice. God has designed life to exist even when there are dangers and predators around that could wipe it out. Having a balance that allows this to happen is very difficult to achieve, and when man upsets that balance the consequences can be catastrophic. As we learn more about plants we find more amazing facts that speak of God’s wisdom and design. Truly we can know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

Source: National Wildlife, December/January 1995, page 18.

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