How scientists are tricking animals into leaving plants alone


When parents want their toddlers to refrain from continuing a habit, like sucking their thumb, they usually consider using a thumb guard or a bitter-tasting nail polish to make thumb-sucking less appealing.
In an interesting experimental study, researchers from the University of Sydney did something similar to dissuade herbivorous animals from eating plants that need to be protected.
They tricked the plant-eating mammals with a scent they usually avoid.
The study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, reveals that tree seedlings near this decoy smell were 20 times less likely to be eaten by animals.
“This is equivalent to the seedlings being surrounded by actual plants that are unpalatable to the herbivore. In most cases it does trick the animals into leaving the plants alone,” said Patrick Finnerty, a PhD student at the University of Sydney and the study’s lead author.


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