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They are intelligent: plants can recognize and protect each other

The diverse world of plants on our planet boasts the most unusual representatives of the flora. Recently, scientists have called for a rethinking of them and the recognition that most of them have intelligence, reports the Daily Mail.

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The latest research by scientists has revealed that plants may have some intelligence, which refutes the traditional idea that only organisms with a central nervous system can be considered intelligent.

Their scientific work showed that plants can detect when a neighboring plant is under attack from insects and adapt to protect themselves from such a threat.

Traditionally, intelligence has been defined by scientists as having a central nervous system in which electrical signals transmit messages for further processing.

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In contrast, plants rely on a vascular system to transport water, minerals and nutrients. However, scientists now propose that intelligence also includes the ability to solve problems, such as effectively adapting to environmental threats. This is discussed in their new scientific work, published in the journal Plant Signaling & Behavior.

Professor Andre Kessler , an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at Cornell University and author of the study, said: “There are more than 70 definitions of intelligence, and even within one scientific field there is no agreement on what it is.” This lack of consensus opens the possibility of considering plant behavior to be intelligent.

Previous research has shown that plants produce high-frequency sounds when they are stressed, suggesting that it is a form of communication. It was also noticed that plants can count, make decisions, recognize relatives and remember events. Recent observational findings from goldenrod further illustrate this potential intelligence.

Goldenrods, native to North America, Europe and Asia, release a chemical signal when attacked by beetles, telling the insect that the plant is damaged and unfit for food. This chemical signal, a type of volatile organic compound (VOC), is then detected by neighboring goldenrods, prompting them to activate similar defense mechanisms to repel the beetles.

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“This is quite consistent with our definition of intelligence,” Kessler explained, “depending on the information that the plant receives from the environment, it changes its standard behavior.”

Experiments conducted in 2021 showed that goldenrod is also able to sense higher rates of far-red light reflected from the leaves of neighboring plants, which affects their growth.

When neighboring plants detect that goldenrod has been eaten, they respond by growing faster and releasing more defensive chemicals. In addition, plants can “smell” chemical signals indicating the presence of pests, allowing them to anticipate future threats and respond accordingly

The concept of plant intelligence itself is not entirely new. Back in 1973, biologist Frank B. Salisbury suggested in his book The Plant World that plants might have some form of “consciousness.”

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More recently, the scientific field of plant neurobiology has emerged, suggesting that plants have structures similar to the nervous system of animals. For example, some proteins in them function similarly to the neural networks of animals, providing complex signaling and adaptive responses.

Putting this research into practice could have significant implications for agriculture. By understanding how plants transmit signals and adapt to stress, scientists can develop crops that are more resilient to pests and environmental changes, potentially reducing the need for chemical pesticides and increasing food security.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of anomalien.com, a website he created in 2013.