A new study shows that plants are a lot smarter than we think.
A surprising new study published in the journal Current Biology claims that plants are a lot smarter than we think.
Scientists found that plants showed an incredible ability to take calculated risks in order to make sure they got enough nutrients, a remarkable discovery that shows a thinking ability similar to our own, according to a Cell Press statement.
The researchers grew pea plants with roots split between two pots that had different levels of nutrients. Scientists first noted that the plants tended to grow more roots in the pot that had more nutrients. Then they noted the plant’s behavior when one of the pots had a more consistent level of nutrients whereas the ohter pot had a wide variety, even though they had the same amount of nutrients on average.
They discovered that when the average nutrient level was high in the consistent pot, plants chose that one, but would grow more roots in the pot with the varied levelof nutrients when the consistent pot’s nutrient level was low, suggesting that the plant was willing to take risks.
The remarkable finding suggests that plants are wiser than we give them credit for. Instead of plants being passive living things, they are organisms that are designed through natural selection to make the most of their opportunities.
“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of an adaptive response to risk in an organism without a nervous system,” says Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University in the UK. “We do not conclude that plants are intelligent in the sense used for humans or other animals, but rather that complex and interesting behaviours can be theoretically predicted as biological adaptations, and executed by organisms, on the basis of processes evolved to exploit natural opportunities efficiently.”
“I used to look at plants as passive receivers of circumstances,” says Efrat Dener, who is now a master’s student at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. “This line of experiments illustrates how wrong that view is: living organisms are designed by natural selection to exploit their opportunities, and this often implies a great deal of flexibility.”