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Plants can ‘hear’ themselves being eaten

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | July 02, 2014

Plants can ‘hear’ themselves being eaten

Using a laser and a tiny section of reflective material on the leaf of the plant, researchers were able to measure the movement of the leaf in response to the chewing caterpillar.

According to a report from the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), building on previous studies that suggested plant growth can be influenced by sound and that plants respond to wind and touch, researchers used a collaboration of audio and chemical analysis to determine that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating plants and that the plants respond with additional defenses.

“Previous research has investigated how plants respond to acoustic energy, including music,” said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU.  “However, our work 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.”

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