Intelligent Design News Plants

Plants can “hear” bugs walking, defend selves

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This cabbage butterfly caterpillar is being recorded/Roger Meissen

And can distinguish the sound from other noises, according to ScienceDaily:

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

Appel collaborated with Rex Cocroft, professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at MU. In the study, caterpillars were placed on Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. Using a laser and a tiny piece of reflective material on the leaf of the plant, Cocroft was able to measure the movement of the leaf in response to the chewing caterpillar.

ocroft and Appel then played back recordings of caterpillar feeding vibrations to one set of plants, but played back only silence to the other set of plants. When caterpillars later fed on both sets of plants, the researchers found that the plants previously exposed to feeding vibrations produced more mustard oils, a chemical that is unappealing to many caterpillars.

“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,” Cocroft said. “This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration.”

Now they want to find out how the plant does it. Caterpillars typically respond to these plant strategies by making other plans for lunch, so there may be some agricultural applications, the researchers suggest.

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One Reply to “Plants can “hear” bugs walking, defend selves

  1. 1
    cantor says:

    Cocroft and Appel then played back recordings of caterpillar feeding vibrations to one set of plants, but played back only silence to the other set of plants. When caterpillars later fed on both sets of plants, the researchers found that the plants previously exposed to feeding vibrations produced more mustard oils, a chemical that is unappealing to many caterpillars.

    I find the above-described test procedure confusing. After reading the first sentence (reproduced below), I had expected the paragraph to continue as follows:

    Cocroft and Appel then played back recordings of caterpillar feeding vibrations to one set of plants, but played back only silence to the other set of plants. The researchers found that the plants receiving the feeding vibrations produced more mustard oils…

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