Most of us consider plants to be passive green additions to our homes. They live happily in a pot and don’t really do much else besides make us happy with their many benefits. However, it turns out that we just not paying attention. Recent research has proven that plants are much smarter than we may think. They are actually smart enough to “gamble” with something way more hardcore than humans with chips – plants gamble with their lives.
Research conducted by Efrat Dener at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel has found that, when faced with hard times, pea plants are known to gamble. Mammals, birds, and social insects have been proven to take fewer risks when they are given a steady and reliable stream of food, but may switch from being risk-avoiders to risk-takers when their food is uncertain. Dener took this principal and carried out a series of experiments on pea plants to find out if plants did the same.
In this experiment, the roots of the pea plants were split between two pots while growing, each pot containing the same type and concentration of nutrients. The level of nutrients in one pot was then kept constant while the other was varied over the course of the experiment. After 12 weeks, the plants’ allocation of roots and root mass in each pot were measured.
The researchers found that the plants varied their root distribution depending on the level of nutrients in each pot. If the constant had low levels, the plants would take a chance and move over to the variable pot to take their chances there, even though there was no guarantee of the nutrients they needed to survive. These normally risk-adverse plants would become risk-prone should their life depend on it.
While this doesn’t mean that pea plants are going to make great gamblers in Las Vegas, it does mean that humans are beginning to further understand the complex ways that plants “think” and the behaviors that drive them. Our previous blog, on plants and how they can communicate through technology, is also about plant intelligence.
For more information on this very interesting study, you can visit the Science website.
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