Plant perception of herbivore vibrations

Image of an Arabidopsis plant, showing how the level of mustard oils was increased after playback of caterpillar feeding vibrations.

Playback of caterpillar feeding vibrations increased the induced response of A. thaliana to herbivore damage. Grayscale map shows the increase in aliphatic glucosinolates in the playback and same-age systemic leaves, expressed as the percent change from the levels in controls.

In collaboration with Dr. Heidi Appel (Plant Sciences at MU), we have recently begun investigating plants’ ability to perceive herbivore-generated vibrations and respond adaptively to them. The chemical defenses of Arabidopsis plants are primed by exposure to caterpillar feeding vibrations. We are currently exploring the mechanisms underlying the plant’s sensitive vibration detection, the acoustic features necessary for triggering a defensive response, and related questions about plant acoustic sensing.


Pieris caterpillar feeding on an Arabidopsis leaf.


Appel HM & Cocroft RB. 2014. Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insect herbivore chewing. Oecogia (pdf)

Cocroft, RB & Appel, HM. 2013. Comments on “green symphonies.” Behavioral Ecology 2013 doi: 10.1093/beheco/ars230 (pdf)


Dr. Heidi Appel, Plant Sciences & Bond Life Science Center, University of Missouri