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Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insects' chewing, study finds

Previous studies have suggested that plant growth can be influenced by sound and that plants respond to wind and touch. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri (MU), in a collaboration that brings together audio and chemical analysis, have determined that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating plants and that the plants respond with more 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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