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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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Trees may not converse after all!

Back in SF#27, we reported how some evidence suggested that trees might communicate with one another in connection with insect attacks. S. V. Fowler and J.H. Lawton contest this conclusion, and they have experimental evidence to back them up. Working with birch trees, they defoliated saplings 5% and 2s% and looked for signs of intertree communication. They found none. As for previous claims for this phenomenon, Fowler and Lawton believe that one study was statistically flawed, and the other due to an infectious disease transmitted between caterpillars rather then talking trees. (Fowler, Simon V., and Lawton, John H.; "Rapidly Induced Defense and Talking Trees: The Devil's Advocate Position, " American Naturalist, 126:181, 1985.)

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss