UWA study finds plans can detect sounds

Dr Monica Gagliano said it was surprising and extraordinary to see that the plant could actually tell when the sound of running water was a recording.

Dr Monica Gagliano said it was surprising and extraordinary to see that the plant could actually tell when the sound of running water was a recording.

A study led by The University of WA has found plants have far more complex and developed senses with the ability to detect and respond to sounds to find water, and ultimately survive.

In the study, “Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water” UWA researchers found that plants can sense sound vibrations from running water moving through pipes or in the soil, to help their roots move towards the source of water.

The study also revealed that plants do not like certain noises and will move away from particular sounds.

Lead researcher Dr Monica Gagliano said water was a basic need for a plants survival, and the study showed that sound plays a significant role in helping plants cater to this need.

“We used the common garden pea plant (Pisum sativum) as the model for our study and put the plant into a container which had two tubes at the base, giving it a choice of  two directions for the growth of its roots.

“We then exposed the plant to a series of sounds, including white noise, running water and then a recording of running water under each tube, and observed its behaviour.

The scientists found that the plants could tell where the source of the water was and their root systems grew towards that source based on sensing the sound of running water alone.

The research has important implications for understanding the behaviour of plants, how it affects their survival based on the plants ‘hearing’ water.

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