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Goldenrod is a very intelligent and communicative plant

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Some plants exhibit intelligent behavior. A study by scientists from the United States showed that goldenrod can inform surrounding plants about an attack by a herbivore – but only those belonging to the same species. The reception of such a signal determines the further behavior of the plant.

Many people believe that having intelligence is related to the presence of a central nervous system. Neurons transmit electrical signals that become the medium for information processing. Plants do not produce nerve cells, which is why many researchers wonder whether they can be considered intelligent. As a study published in “Plant Signaling and Behavior” shows, some plants exhibit behavior that would indicate a kind of intelligence.

Memory and cooperation

Researchers from the American Cornell University analyzed the behavior of the tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) in the event of being bitten by the larvae of insects from the woodworm family. Their research showed that damaged plants began to emit a special mixture of volatile organic compounds, signaling to insects that the plant was damaged and a poor food source. The substances were also captured by other plants of this species, which, in response to the chemical signal, began to prepare themselves to defend themselves against the pest.

Interestingly, a chemical signal is just one way of communicating between individuals. In previous research, scientists have noticed that goldenrod can perceive the reflectance of far-red light from the leaves of neighboring plants. When neighbors are present and the goldenrods are eaten by the beetles, they invest more in tolerating the herbivore by growing faster and begin to produce defensive compounds. When there are no neighbors, plants do not resort to accelerated growth.

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Goldenrod (Solidago altissima) nibbled by a waspDan4Earth/Shutterstock

Ambiguous definition

“There are over 70 published definitions of intelligence and there is no consensus on what it is, even in one specific domain,” said Andre Kessler of Cornell University, lead author of the new analysis. – We defined it as “the ability to solve problems, based on information obtained from the environment, in order to achieve a specific result.”

Kessler explained that by this definition, goldenrod could be considered somewhat intelligent. Depending on the information received from the environment, plants changed their behavior and used stimuli to predict upcoming threats.

If plants do not have a nervous system, how do their bodies transmit information signals? Scientists suspect that chemical signaling plays this role. Research to date has shown that each plant cell has a broad spectrum of light perception and the ability to detect specific volatile compounds from neighboring plants.

“Every single cell can precisely sense its environment,” Kessler said. The researcher added that although the cells are specialized, they all perceive the same thing and communicate with each other through chemical signaling to collectively trigger one specific response.

ScienceAlert, Cornell University

Main photo source: Dan4Earth/Shutterstock



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