Vegetarians and vegans pay heed, new research shows plants know when they’re being eaten. And they don’t like it. That plants possess an intelligence is not new knowledge, but according to Modern Farmer, a new study from the University of Missouri shows plants can sense when they are being eaten and send out defense mechanisms to try and stop it from happening. The study was carried out on thale cress or Arabadopsis thaliana as it’s known scientifically – that is closely related to broccoli, kale, mustard greens and other siblings of the brassica family and popular for science experiments. It’s commonly used in experiments because it was the first plant to have its genome sequenced, and scientists are intimately familiar with how it works.
Plants Respond to Leaf Vibrations Caused by Insects’ Chewing, MU Study Finds from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.
Going forward with the question of whether or not a plant knows it’s being eaten, the University of Missouri researchers first took a precise audio recording of the vibrations a caterpillar makes as it eats the thale cress leaves, with the working theory that plants can feel or hear the vibrations in some way. The researchers controlled the experiment by coming up with other vibrations that simulated other natural vibrations like wind noise that the plant might encounter.
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The results? According to Modern Farmer, the thale cress produces mustard oils that are mildly toxic when eaten, and sends them throughout its leaves to try and keep the predators away. The research also revealed that when the plants felt or heard “munching vibrations” from the caterpillar, they sent out extra mustard oils. But when other vibrations were present the plants didn’t react at all.
“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.”
Via Modern Farmer
Image via phalinn, Flickr Creative Commons and video via University of Missouri
The study shows the response of the plants to be purely chemical in nature. There is no sentient brain feeling pain. The conclusion that "plants don't like it" is incorrect because there is no entity there which likes or dislikes. It is like saying coke does not like a mentos being dropped in it. Strictly not comparable to the killing of animals.
This is science gone wrong. What plants don't like is being tested on and proded to produce something of themselves some idiot observing them in a lab away from their natural environment. Plants know they exist to provide a number of benefits to the expanse of all that is nature. They clean the air and produce scents that give the air they clean fragrance, they provide roots that help the soil, reflect and absorb light bringing beauty and finally they produce fruit in excess of any need they have for it offering it freely to bring nourishment to all life; the same life which breathes the air they clean, smiles as the fragrance wafts by in the breeze while taking in the beauty from the colors they reflect while standing on the soil which helps other plants and trees take root. It's a delightful cycle only humans would remove and study to reach a conclusion projected on to plants that plants themselves never had as part of their being.
This article has nothing to do with being vegetarian or vegan. Omnivores eat at least as many plants as vegans and vegetarians, because they eat plants and animals that eat plants. It seems like every article of this kind makes a joke about vegetarians and it is a distraction from the content of the article.
Interesting comments, and -- predictably -- they either fall back to rationalisations to justify veganism/vegetarianism or fall back to a weak epistemological position about the nature of "knowing." I agree that ascribing the quality of not liking something is misleading, but this is undoubtedly an editorial decision that ensures readership: it pushes buttons. In the same way that the article tends to anthropomorphise the plants' reactions, the denial of a plant to "know" relegates that quality only to humans. The relatively recent narrative of sustainability, while plausible, would still not convince many Jainists, who "know" that plants do have an intelligence, but that knowing allows them to be selective about the specific plants and parts of plants that they consume. And besides, they tell the plants why they are being eaten (in much the same way that in many cultures, animals are told why and when they will be sacrificed). Moreover, the sustainability argument still carries with it a moral/ethical imperative that, while rationalized for those who subscribe to that point of view, can nonetheless become elitist and just as damaging as the perspective it criticises....silly humans.
No, California is experiencing a drought because is is getting no rain. Total water supply availability is another issue.
This is rather misleading. It seems form the study that the plants have certain defense mechanisms for when they are being eaten, but it's just a stimulus, one that no one should be surprised they have. Any life-form would rather not be eaten and will respond in kind. But to claim that they "know" of their status as being eaten - what does this really mean? Then to claim that "they do not like it"? The article anthropomorphizes the plant's response. Yes they respond to certain stimuli, but to make the jump to such human feelings as "liking" and "knowing" seems like an unfounded claim unsupported by the actual experiment. They display a preference for not being eaten, but this does not support the existence of an animal consciousness. Also, why should vegetarians and vegans take heed? Not all vegetarians and vegans eat the way they do because they feel sorry for animals. Most that I know do it for environmental reasons, because it is more sustainable.
The new veganism is about the environment now. It takes several times more plants to feed livestock than humans. What's more, California is experiencing a drought partly because of the millions of invasive-species-cow draining water from its supply. #gotmilk?