A report from the University of Missouri-Columbia stated that a collaboration of audio and chemical analysis found plants respond to the sounds caterpillars make when eating leaves. The study also concluded that plants respond to the sounds defensively.
“We found that feeding vibrations signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars,” said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU.
The scientists tested the effect of other sounds, like gentle wind or nearby insects and compared these with the vibrations made by caterpillars munching on leaves.
They found that the plants were able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other sounds, and reacted defensively by producing more mustard oils, a chemical that is unappealing to many caterpillars.
The scientists have also released a video report, which can be viewed below.