Scientists Say Plants Can Hear Themselves Being Eaten

Photo: 20th Century Fox

You may want to look away, vegetarians and vegans, and that’s because scientists are now saying that plants can “hear” themselves being eaten. That’s right, they hear you munching away on them.

According to researchers at the University of Missouri, plants can identify sounds nearby – which also include the sounds made when people eat them.

For thousands of years people have been talking to their plants, claiming that sound and music can help plants grow. And according to Heidi Appel, a senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Bond Life Sciences Centre at MU, this new study is “the first example of how plants respond to an ecologically relevant vibration.”

“We found that ‘feeding vibrations’ signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars,” Appel adds.

This study involved putting caterpillars on small plants called Arabidopsis and then scientists used a laser and a piece of reflective material to measure movement of the leaf in response to the munching caterpillar. The recordings of the caterpillars feeding vibrations were played back to one set of plants and played silence to an other. It was found that the plants that had been forced to listen to the sound of caterpillars eating were now producing more mustard oils, a chemical that the bugs don’t like.

And here’s what Rex Cocroft, a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at MU who worked on the study as well, had to say:

“What is remarkable is that the plants exposed to different vibrations, including those made by a gentle wind or different insect sounds that share some acoustic features with caterpillar feeding vibrations did not increase their chemical defenses.

This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration. Plants have many ways to detect insect attack, but feeding vibrations are likely the fastest way for distant parts of the plant to perceive the attack and begin to increase their defenses.”

So since plants can hear themselves being killed, I think there’s only one thing left to say:

h/t The LADbible

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