While plants can’t chat like people, they don’t just sit in restful silence. Under certain conditions—such as a lack of water or physical damage—plants vibrate and emit sound waves. Typically, those waves are too high-pitched for the human ear and go unnoticed.
But biologists can now hear those sound waves from a distance. Lilach Hadany, a biologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and her colleagues even managed to record them. They published their work in the journal Cell today.
Hadany and colleagues’ work is part of a niche but budding field called “plant bioacoustics.” While scientists know plants aren’t just inert decorations in the ecological backdrop— they interact with their surroundings, like releasing chemicals as a defense mechanism—researchers don’t exactly know how plants respond to and produce sounds. Not only could solving this mystery give farmers a new way of tending to their plants, but it might also unlock