Many plants enhance their protective hairs, calcium phosphate, commonly found in teeth and bones.


The surface of a leaf or stem, forest-covered rigid hairs, the aphid is a serious obstacle. (Photo: Adeel Mustafa / Uni Bonn.)

From cows and aphids the plants can’t run away, so they have to use some other ways of protection . The most obvious way is to become poisonous or at least unpalatable.

There may be different options: you can cover the body stinging hairs like nettles, or constantly to produce some sort of toxin to soak them from top to bottom, or just include the relevant genes, when someone starts you. About the last option we have already said, sensing mechanical damage, plants activate the synthesis of substances that make them unpleasant to the taste.

Another way of protection – mechanical: a variety of thorns with a hard crust and so on. And among the options for the mechanical protection is one that was a surprise is the solid hairs, or trichomes, which can cover the whole ground part of the plant.

Hairs trichomes often mineralized and contain silica or calcium carbonate. But not so long ago in hairs of some members of the family lazovich found calcium phosphate. This is one of the main minerals in animals, it is very much in our bones and teeth, in plants it is still not found.

For some time it was believed that only lazovich calcium phosphate is. However, researchers from the University of Bonn argue that among plants it is far more widespread than you might think. In an article in Plant stated that this biomineral have Rosaceae, burninating and causticity. Calcium phosphate – pretty solid stuff, and plants that have calcium phosphate in the hairs becomes quite difficult to chew.

But in some cases mineralized hairs serve as a protection not so much from the herbivorous mammals, as from insect pests. In the same article in the Plant the authors reported that they were able to find subordonnee (i.e., mineralized calcium phosphate) hairs at rezhevichi tal, which is better known under his Latin name Arabidopsis thaliana. Arabidopsis has for many years used as one of the main objects in biological experiments, ranging from molecular genetics and finishing with the environment is more surprising that until now nobody paid attention to the fact that his hair got the animal biomineral.

However, the hairs of Arabidopsis are quite small and soft, they are not mineralized completely, and only towards the ends. Against cows, goats, or deer, they do not protect, but for aphids and other small insects that drink plant juices, such teeth serve as an insurmountable obstacle; and if aphids, for example, will persist in their attempts to reach the plant surface, phosphate and calcium in the hair may pierce through through. Calcium phosphate and silica give much greater strength than calcium carbonate, so perhaps it is not surprising that a lot of species of plants have mastered the “bone-tooth” mineral.