Monday, 22 Jun, 2009 Science

Plants Communicate With Each Other to Notify of Dangerous Predators


Representatives of the vegetable kingdom are able to communicate with each other, a scientist claims. According to American bug specialist Professor Richard Karban of the University of California, plants can show more complicated behavior than previously believed.

The scientist admits that his work is rather controversial, but he suggests that plants are capable of conversing with each other by transmitting chemical messages through the air, thus sending warning signals about hungry predators. As soon as a nearby plant receives the warning message, it increases its defenses against such predators as grasshoppers and caterpillars, the scientist says.

Professor Karban, claims he managed to prove that communication between plants really takes place. He made an experiment on sagebrush bushes, which are hardy, yellow-flowered shrubs that grown mainly in the western part of the United States. He used scissors to perform cuts on leaves and stems of potted bushes, thus causing damage just like a grasshopper would.

Afterwards the scientist planted some plants that had the signs of damage and those that remained unharmed in a field and estimated levels of predation on their neighbors. He noticed that the leaves on the plants that had clipped neighbors showed less signs of grasshopper damage. The experiment and its results were published in the journal Ecology Letters.

The experiment shows that plants are able to somehow inform their neighbors about the danger so the latter could prepare their defenses. Now the professor needs to identify the chemicals that plants use to transmit their warning signs. He also noticed that the least damaged were plants of the same type, which means that plants can distinguish members from their family.

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