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Plants Can Turn Caterpillars Into Cannibals To Avoid Getting Eaten ( 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from National Geographic: A new study published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal found that when some plants are under attack from hungry herbivores, they emit defenses that make themselves incredibly foul-tasting to caterpillars, which spurs the caterpillars to eat each other. "Plants can defend themselves so much that they food-stress the herbivore, and then the herbivores determine that rather than have plants on their menu, they should have caterpillars at the top of their menu," said John Orrock, the author of the study and a researcher in the Department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Orrock and his research team sprayed tomato plants with methyl jasmonate -- a substance plants produce in response to environmental stresses -- to trigger the plants' defense mechanisms. This chemical allowed the plant to change its chemistry, which made it less appetizing to the beet armyworm caterpillars that were placed on a treated plant. This phenomenon has been documented in a variety of plants, and research has suggested that plants can sense when surrounding plants are under attack, which can spur the production of methyl jasmonate in entire communities of plants.
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Plants Can Turn Caterpillars Into Cannibals To Avoid Getting Eaten

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  • Cool trick! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:09AM (#54792275)

    That's the same the rich do with the poor: convince them that they are, somehow richer than others, thus turning them against each other (instead of eating the -- far more nutritional! rich).

    Humans are idiots (myself included, mind you).

    • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

      Well, more accurately, humans are still animals with all that entails.

    • Re:Cool trick! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @06:30AM (#54792337)

      No the flood TV and Radio channels that shows how the other guy is so bad.
      For example. If a small group is against something that a lot of people like, they will twist it to make it seem like a much larger group in which this small group is a subset of.

      So all conservatives are racist. And all liberals are atheists. All the rich and powerful are republicans. All the whining protesters are Democrats.

      It creates an us vs them mantality, exaggerating the difference between people, where the difference isn't so great.

      • No the flood TV and Radio channels that shows how the other guy is so bad.

        Not really nowadays. There is a better medium than just TV and radio -- Internet. Social network can accelerate anything much faster and has better impact on people especially younger generations. However, media, such as TV, radio, and Internet are simply tools and should not be blamed on. So could you please stop blaming media as a whole but rather point out specific person/group when anything like this happen? Simply making a generalization is misleading and actually make things worse.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Conservatives who voted for Trump are either 100% behind his bigotry, or they are 100% okay with it; there is no effective difference between the two. Apathy is just as dangerous as active hatred.

        Yes, actually, if Hillary had said something so blatantly abusive, had run on a platform of racism, sexism, Islamaphobia, classism, ableism, and basically further disenfranchisement for anyone who isn't a white Christian straight cisgender male - yes, I'd feel exactly the same way about her and anyone who voted

        • Many of the votes for Trump, were more votes against Clinton. They are not 100% okay with the bigotry, but that problem seems like less of an issue then the issues they saw in Clinton.

      • by slick7 ( 1703596 )
        Television and not so smartphones turn people into hive-mindless ants. Turn the damn shit off, and go outside and play.
    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      That's the same the rich do with the poor: convince them that they are, somehow richer than others

      Well, if you are in the US, then you are rich, because basically anyone in the US can get the 3 basic needs met (Water, Food, and Shelter), and almost everyone can access conveniences and comforts such as Telephone-based communications, Automotive vehicular transportation, Running-water based Showers and Toilets, Comfortable beds, and some form of Entertainment. Most of the poor are separated by physi

  • When the last of them finally come out of their cocoons they will be Vampire Butterflies?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A new study on an old topic. The topic of this jasmine compound to mess around with insect digestive habits - has been known since 2009 at the very least as per the website noted in the summary [] and has likely been known prior before its commercialization.

    "Article" doesn't mention any breakthrough discovery. The team sprayed the compound on tomato plants, caterpillars acted as predicted. Just media hyper sensationalism.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    Interesting...the movie "The Happening" had a story of plants turning against humans. Is this proof that this could happen in real life?

  • Cabbages too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @07:23AM (#54792465)

    My understanding is that cabbages can also sense when they're under attack. They emit a chemical signal that attracts wasps, who then feast on the herbivore invaders. Pretty cool, evolutionary warfare. It's led to some extraordinary adaptations in nature's brutal eat or be eaten battle arena.

    • The most interesting thing I found about the cabbage/wasp/butterfly link was this:

      Certain kinds of butterflies landing on part of a cabbage (or yellow mustard - a cabbage relative) for some time can trigger the plant to release a chemical that makes the butterfly less likely to lay its eggs. Parasitic wasps are very sensitive to butterfly pheromones (for obvious reasons, since they lay their eggs alongside the caterpillar eggs). The chemical released by cabbage family plants against butterflies also attra

  • "Plants Can Turn Caterpillars Into Cannabis To Avoid Getting Eaten!"

    . . . but, being that I'm watching a story on the news where folks who got caught tossing Molotov cocktails just got released because they have sympathizers in the Hamburg government . . . everything seems a wee bit surreal today.

  • Without releasing chemicals the TV news channels seem to be on the verge of turning human beings into cannibals.
  • For vegans.

    As this shows, plants to not want to be eaten. This makes it immoral for you to choose to eat them in the same way it is immoral for you to eat an animal.

    Actually, it fits in with my philosophy that all life is precious, and deciding that one form of life is acceptable to eat and one form is not acceptable is making a moral choice that is bigoted.

    We're here, we're omnivorous, and unless we are on a starvation fast, we need to eat.

    I can hardly wait until my next encounter with a vegan tha

  • by Sumus Semper Una ( 4203225 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @09:57AM (#54793137)

    While it is cool that plants have defense mechanisms against herbivores, the claim that the plants are "turning caterpillars into cannibals" is a bit of a stretch. Caterpillars are already cannibalistic in a pinch. All the plant does is make itself taste bad. If I only have meat and vegetables in my refrigerator and all the meat spoils first, then my choice to eat vegetables does not imply that meat's tendency to spoil faster turns me into a vegetarian.

  • by SkyLeach ( 188871 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @11:26AM (#54793819) Homepage

    Our real enemy will be the humble potato and in one fell swoop everyone with a hankering for french fries or potato chips will become a zombie.

Disks travel in packs.