Plant behaviour and communication

Authors


*E-mail: rkarban@ucdavis.edu

Abstract

Plant behaviours are defined as rapid morphological or physiological responses to events, relative to the lifetime of an individual. Since Darwin, biologists have been aware that plants behave but it has been an underappreciated phenomenon. The best studied plant behaviours involve foraging for light, nutrients, and water by placing organs where they can most efficiently harvest these resources. Plants also adjust many reproductive and defensive traits in response to environmental heterogeneity in space and time. Many plant behaviours rely on iterative active meristems that allow plants to rapidly transform into many different forms. Because of this modular construction, many plant responses are localized although the degree of integration within whole plants is not well understood. Plant behaviours have been characterized as simpler than those of animals. Recent findings challenge this notion by revealing high levels of sophistication previously thought to be within the sole domain of animal behaviour. Plants anticipate future conditions by accurately perceiving and responding to reliable environmental cues. Plants exhibit memory, altering their behaviours depending upon their previous experiences or the experiences of their parents. Plants communicate with other plants, herbivores and mutualists. They emit cues that cause predictable reactions in other organisms and respond to such cues themselves. Plants exhibit many of the same behaviours as animals even though they lack central nervous systems. Both plants and animals have faced spatially and temporally heterogeneous environments and both have evolved plastic response systems.

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