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Nature & Environment

Trees may actually 'sleep' during the night

By T.K. Randall
May 19, 2016 · Comment icon 17 comments



Trees appear to have their own day and night cycle. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Snezana Trifunovic
For the first time, trees have been observed undergoing changes at night that can be likened to sleep.
Andras Zlinszky and his colleages from the Center for Ecological Research in Tihany, Hungary, made the discovery after using lasers to measure trees in Austria and Finland during the night.

They found that the branches of birch trees actually droop by as much as ten centimeters as part of a subtle day-night cycle that had only ever been observed before in small plants.

"It was a very clear effect, and applied to the whole tree," said Zlinszky. "No one has observed this effect before at the scale of whole trees, and I was surprised by the extent of the changes."
During the day the trees angle their branches higher up to help them catch more sunlight, but at night, when there is no sunlight, letting the branches droop is a good way to conserve energy.

"There have been some studies on circadian rhythms in trees, mostly studying gene expression, but this latest research is a beautiful way to watch it happen in individual trees," said C. Robertson McClung of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"It shows things are happening in the real world."

Source: New Scientist | Comments (17)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by EllJay 7 years ago
Trees may actually 'sleep' during the night That's great. That means they may be asleep when I walk home from the pub and take a pi$$ against one of them, so they wont wake up and kick my *** for it. I mean; it's quite embarrassing coming home with an black eye, and sayin that I got my *** kicked by a poppel because I took a p|$$ against it.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Poppi 7 years ago
Venus Flytrap.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Poppi 7 years ago
i like turtles
Comment icon #11 Posted by Infernal Gnu 7 years ago
More bad news for vegans! plant life is more and more like what animals and peoples behavior and life cycles are. Dang, so it looks like there's only one ethical dietary alternative: become a detrivore, like millipedes and earthworms. Detritivores obtain nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant and animal parts as well as feces). Eating feces is a bit too extreme for me, so I will settle for eating rotting plants and roadkill.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Hammerclaw 7 years ago
Anyone who's ever observed plants such as the mimosa, closing their leaves at sunset and opening them in the morning, already knew plants have diurnal-nocturnal cycles. The question is: do plants also dream?
Comment icon #13 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
That's it. I'm going to become a Breatherarian. Plant Lives Matter...
Comment icon #14 Posted by Summerin1905 7 years ago
i could just imagine this evolution of trees turning into those trees that are in the lord of the rings.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Eldorado 7 years ago
Anyone who's ever observed plants such as the mimosa, closing their leaves at sunset and opening them in the morning, already knew plants have diurnal-nocturnal cycles. The question is: do plants also dream? Dreams of leaving? Of pastures new where a feller can put down roots and maybe branch out a little? The grass is, after all, greener on the other side. (sorry... lol)
Comment icon #16 Posted by Chortle 7 years ago
This is laudible; the human capacity for anthropomorphism astounds (ie not actually sleep but something else we'll refer to as sleep). Next up the laissez faire economics of plancton: anything goes!
Comment icon #17 Posted by Hawkin 7 years ago
Do you know from experience?


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