There’s some news that vegans and vegetarians everywhere should know: Plants are smart enough to know when they are being eaten and take action to stop it because they obviously don’t want to die.
According to a 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, plants have the intelligence to feel the specific vibrations caused from pests eating them and react to ward off or kill them by releasing a mildly toxic chemical to stop them.
The tests were conducted on thale cress, a plant closely related to broccoli, kale and mustard greens. Thale cress is widely used for testing because it was the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced, giving researchers intimate knowledge on how the plant works.
Research scientists Heidi Appel, who co-conducted the study, explained:
“Previous research has investigated how plants respond to acoustic energy, including music. However, our work is the first example of how plants respond to an ecologically relevant vibration.”
Researchers took precise audio of caterpillars eating thale and created other sequences to mimic other natural vibrations like blowing wind. When the caterpillar vibrations were felt, the thale cress released mustard oil to ward off predators, but the plants didn’t react to the other natural vibrations. Appel explained:
“We found that feeding vibrations signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars.”
So nothing that is alive likes to be killed and eaten. Who would have guessed?