Unheard Voices: How Plants Produce and Respond to Ultrasonic Sounds During Stress

Scientists Capture Sound of Plants “Screaming” When Uprooted for First Time

Plants, it turns out, are not just silent observers of the world around them. They also produce sounds in ultrasonic frequencies that are outside the range of human hearing. These sounds, like a polling or clicking noise, can be compared to plants “screaming” when they are harvested. When plants become stressed, the intensity of these sounds increases, suggesting that they may be a way for plants to communicate their distress to the world around them.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel have discovered this fascinating fact through a study published in Cell. Evolutionary biologist Lilach Hadany explained that even in quiet fields, there are sounds that carry information which we are unable to hear. In the study, they recorded tomato and tobacco plants in both stressed and unstressed conditions to analyze the sounds produced.

The team discovered that stressed plants emitted high-pitched sounds that were detectable within a radius of over a meter, but beyond the reach of human hearing. They used a machine learning algorithm to differentiate between the sounds made by unstressed plants and plants in distress, such as those with cut stems or dehydrated.

While it remains unclear how plants produce these noises, the researchers believe it could be one of the ways plants interact with the world around them. Unstressed plants, on the other hand, do not emit much noise, suggesting that they remain quiet and unaffected by external factors.

This study opens up new questions about the ways in which plants communicate and respond to their environment. It also sheds light on the complexity and diversity of plant life, highlighting their ability to sense and react to stress in unique ways.

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