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A study found that plants “scream” when bitten, cut or stressed

A study found that plants “scream” when bitten, cut or stressed

The plant world is much less silent than people think. Vegetables make crunching sounds when they’re cut or when they don’t get enough water. Or when they are bitten by hungry animals. The intriguing discovery was made by scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel, who used tomato plants, tobacco plants, and corn in the experiment.

Previous studies had already begun to discover that vegetables make sounds in situations involving a certain degree of physiological stress: cuts, bites, times of drought. The main article was published in 2019, by the same team from the Israeli capital.

To detect and record the final sounds of these vegetables, the team placed sensors inside their stems.


The detected noise is very similar to popping or popping popcorn. What changes is the frequency at which this noise is emitted in each case. The more terrifying the condition, the more frequent the sounds.

In the 2019 research, the team found that under normal conditions, a tomato plant makes less than one sound per hour. But when the water runs out, it sends 35 beeps, and 25 beeps when the leg is cut off.

The sounds are caused by cavitations: air bubbles in plant tissues, which burst due to changes in the composition of the fluids.

In the new study, Published March 30 in CellThe team led by Yitzhak Khait discovered that the sounds are not limited to the interior of the plants, but rather spread through the air about 5 meters away from the plant.

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But who hears these “cries”? Since the noise is ultrasonic (with frequencies above 20,000 Hz), it is not audible to humans. But some animals – such as moths, mice and bats – managed to catch them, as well as technological equipment. and other plants.

So that we, too, can hear, scientists have reduced the frequency of noise.


Obviously, such a discovery generates all kinds of speculation. Are plants able to speak? Do they have intelligence? Are the sounds indicating that they are in pain?

It’s not possible to try to find out more than the study found, at best, says Isaac Khayt and his team.

There’s no doubt that clicks are forms of communication—plus changes in color, scent, and electrical signals emitted by plants have already been categorized by science.

An excerpt from the study reads: “If plants emit airborne sounds, those sounds can trigger a rapid response in nearby organisms, including animals and plants.”


They think, for example, that noise can help predators: a bat that knows a plant is food for its prey can be attracted to plants that emit a particular repetitive noise.

Likewise, caterpillars may avoid certain plants that give off audible signals that they are dehydrated.

The scientists used a machine learning model and were able to “translate” with 70% accuracy the sound patterns emitted by plants under different conditions placed in a greenhouse.

Despite the lack of broader responses, the study is important for identifying another modality in the complex network of communication between the plant and animal kingdoms.

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