About this Research Topic
Plant movements have drawn the interest of scientists since centuries, like the snapping of the Venus flytrap, the bursting of the touch-me-not fruits, and the opening an closing of pine cones. Nowadays, we have gained a good understanding of how these non-muscular deformations are evoked and we have elucidated some of the crucial principles and relationships of movement actuation, deformation rate, and tissue architecture.
In many cases, the shape changes serve a multitude of ecological purposes including diaspore dispersal, carnivory (prey capture), and pollination. The respective tissue structures are often very small, which makes them challenging to mechanically test, the movements are often so fast (or so slow) that the motion pattern is difficult to record with an appropriate frame rate, and the organs are often very sensitive, which makes them difficult to handle. Recent approaches have impressively demonstrated that, with the help of modern methodology and simulation methods, many of the “secrets” underlying such impressive organ reactions can be resolved. Plant shape changes can either be completely passive and do not require any active metabolism (e.g., hygroscopic movement), whereas other motions rely on metabolic energy (reversible turgor-based movements, growth). Rapid changes, which have to overcome the limits of diffusion rates (i.e., the speed of water flow through tissues), are enabled by the storage and sudden release of elastic energy. Various fascinating principles of how energy storage is built up in the responsible tissues are known, e.g. from the Venus flytrap.
The comprehensive knowledge on the comparative form-structure-function-relationships and physiology of the moving structures allows for drawing conclusions of the tailored mechanics at play, which is of great importance in ecological and evolutionary contexts. On the other hand, the principles of these movements are a rich source of inspiration for a biomimetic transfer to technical applications (smart materials for example) and a number of biomimetic kinetic adaptive structures have successfully been developed.
For the current Research Topic, the focus is put on plant motions and the transfer of underlying principles into technical structures. We welcome authors to contribute to this Topic in the form of all accepted article types.
Keywords: Elastic Energy, Self-Actuation, Water, Turgor, Snap-Buckling, Biomimetics
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