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Plant Signal Behav. 2013 Jun;8(6):e24473. doi: 10.4161/psb.24473. Epub 2013 Apr 19.

The enigmatic fast leaflet rotation in Desmodium motorium: butterfly mimicry for defense?

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Department of Biology & Environment; Faculty of Natural Sciences; University of Haifa; Oranim, Tivon, Israel.


I propose that the enigmatic leaflet movements in elliptical circles every few minutes of the Indian telegraph (semaphore) plant Desmodium motorium ( = D. gyrans = Hedysarum gyrans = Codariocalyx motorius), which has intrigued scientists for centuries, is a new type of butterfly or general winged arthropod mimicry by this plant. Such leaflet movement may deceive a passing butterfly searching for an un-occupied site suitable to deposit its eggs, that the plant is already occupied. It may also attract insectivorous birds, reptiles or arthropods to the plant because it looks as if it is harboring a potential prey and while they patrol there, they can find insects or other invertebrates that indeed attack the plant. The possibility that diurnal mammalian herbivores may also be deterred by these movements should not be dismissed.


Desmodium; butterfly mimicry; deception; defence; herbivory; leaf movement

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