COLUMBIA, Missouri – Deep in a forgotten laboratory somewhere on the University of Missouri campus, scientists stumbled on one of nature’s strangest secrets, a secret too strange, and too horrifying, to be believed.
The researchers set up sophisticated listening machines to see if they could pick up the painful screams of the lowly cabbage plant as a caterpillar gnawed hungrily at its unprotected and tasty leaves.
And that is how they learned that plants know when they are being eaten alive, “so that when they were attacked by caterpillars, they responded with much higher levels of these mustard oils that are toxic to caterpillars,” said researcher Rex Cocroft.
It was a discovery both frightening and astonishing because it showed researcher Heidi Appel, “That plants respond to their environment in ways similar to animals, even though the actual responses might look a little different.”
And that raises the terrifying question: If a cabbage plant can do that to a caterpillar, when will it happen to humans?