Need This New Finding? A Plant Can Learn And Remember
To most of us a Mimosa is a tasty cocktail to drink with brunch, but to researchers a Mimosa is a plant native to Central and South America that has been shown to be able to learn and remember what it learned. The Mimosa pudica is a creeping annual or perennial herb that is also known as a "touch-me-not" that closes its leaves and droops to protect itself from predators.
Scientists from Australia and Italy have used experimental techniques normally used to study learned behavior in animals on the Mimosa plant and found that it will learn and remember just as well as animals.
Dr. Monica Gagliano from the University of Western Australia and her associates designed their experiments as if Mimosa was an animal. They tested the plant's long- and short-term memory using a special apparatus to drip water on the plants.
Over time the plants learned that the dripping had no consequences to their survival they stopped reacting to the disturbance. The experiment was repeated in a number of different environments. This learned behavior stayed with the plants for several weeks.
They discovered that the plant would retain this memory even after a month of relaxing in a far more favorable environment. This long-erm learned behavior change parallels that of most animals.
While plant may lack the brains and neural connections that we equate with animal intelligence, they do have a rather sophisticated calcium-based signaling network in their cells that is similar to animal memory processes.
These scientists readily admit that they are as yet unsure of how this learning mechanism works, but this discovery of the fact that plants can learn is likely to have major implications going forward in the study of biology and botany. This blurs the line in the difference between plants and animals that we were all so certain of in the past. There may turn out to be more than one way to define a nervous system.
Perhaps all those old science fiction movies and television shows with perambulating or intelligent plants weren't so far off after all. It leaves me with just one thing to say. "Feed me, Seymour!"
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Laurie Kay Olson
Clever Problem Solvers