Science, ‘Plants Know We’re Eating Them’


Prepare for some appetite shattering news, vegetarians, you’re no better than meat eaters — plants know we’re eating them. And they’re PISSED!

According to Modern Farmer, a new study released by researchers at the University of Missouri reveals that plants know when they’re being eaten and try to prevent it by releasing their own defense mechanisms. We already know that plants have defenses like thorns and bark to protect themselves, but the study revealed that some plants release a special toxin when they’re being munched on by an insect.

To determine if plants can tell when they’re becoming lunch, scientists used thale cress which is closely related to broccoli, kale, and mustard greens and is commonly used in science experiments because scientists are familiar with how it works since it was the first plant to have its genome sequenced.

So, to determine if a plant knows it’s being eaten the scientists took an audio recording of the vibrations a caterpillar produces when eating thale cress leaves and how the plant reacts compared to similar vibrations it feels from wind. When exposed to wind vibrations the plant had no reaction, but when subjected to a hungry caterpillar the plant released a mildly toxic mustard oil in an effort to deter its predator.

The next step of the research process for the team will be to determine how the detection works inside of plants and what effect other vibrations have.

“There are maybe 400,000 species of plants, and what are the chances that we just happened to pick the one species that has this ability to detect vibration? The ability for plants to pick up sound is pretty clear, but the advance from this study is unique,” Rex Cocroft notes. “What everyday sounds would be relevant? This wasn’t Beethoven’s 5th; this was a chewing herbivore capable of doing a lot of damage to the plant.”

Kinda makes you think twice about eating a salad or picking a tomato right off the vine, huh?

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