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Plants that respond to sound and “click” to communicate with each other?

It’s not science fiction, according to research released today by the University of Western Australia.

“Everyone knows that plants react to light, and scientists also know that plants use volatile chemicals to communicate with each other: for instance, when danger - such as a herbivore - approaches,” UWA researcher Monica Gagliano said.

“I was working one day in my herb garden and started to wonder if maybe plants were also sensitive to sounds - why not? - so I decided as a scientist to find out.”

Dr Gagliano, along with professor Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol in the UK and professor Stefano Mancuso at the University of Florence in Italy, found that the roots of young plants emitted and reacted to particular sounds.

They established that young roots of corn made regular clicking sounds.

They also found that when the roots were suspended in water, they leaned toward the source of a continuous sound emitted in the region of 220Hz, which was within the frequency range that the same roots emitted themselves.

Their research concluded that in addition to other forms of sensory response, “it is very likely that some form of sensitivity to sound and vibrations also plays an important role in the life of plants”.

The researchers’ findings have been published in the international journal Trends in Plant Science.

Dr Gagliano said she hoped her work would attract further funding for more research into how plants made and reacted to sounds.