Environment Smart plants can learn new habits

Smart plants can learn new habits

Plants can learn about their environment by making links between events, a new study reveals.

It’s the first to prove plants are capable of associative learning, an ability thought to be exclusive to animals.

The study was inspired by Pavlov’s experiments with dogs which demonstrated that behaviour could be changed using conditioning.

Professor Monica Gagliano, from UWA’s Centre for Evolutionary Biology, experimented with pea seedlings to see how they responded after initially being exposed to light from a particular direction.

The results showed the seedlings could learn and choose the best growth direction for survival by correctly predicting the occurrence of light even when it was removed.

“Because our findings are unexpected, we anticipate that this study will stir a lively and exciting debate on the origin and properties of memory, learning and ultimately intelligent behaviour in biological systems,” Professor Gagliano said.

“The research opens up new and bigger ecological questions of how modifications to our environment will shape future plant communities.”

You can read more about the research team’s findings here. Story credit: UWA newsroom.

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