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Plant Behaviour and Intelligence$
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Anthony Trewavas

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199539543

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199539543.001.0001

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Brains and nerve cells are not necessary for intelligent behaviour

Brains and nerve cells are not necessary for intelligent behaviour

(p.201) Chapter 20 Brains and nerve cells are not necessary for intelligent behaviour
Plant Behaviour and Intelligence

Anthony Trewavas

Oxford University Press

The notion that brains and nervous systems are necessary for intelligence is dubbed brain chauvinism. Organisms cannot rely alone on simple reflexes in complex environments; there is insufficient room in the genome for solutions for all to be encoded. Organisms learn from experience and apply that knowledge to future challenges. Learning is central to all intelligent behaviour. If reason is profiting from experience to modify current behaviour, then most organisms are capable of reason whether it be simple or complex. Examples of current behaviour being modified in this way are described for slime moulds in its response to food sources and discrimination between food sources to provide an optimal diet. Slime moulds also learn the frequency of applied electric shocks and anticipate future ones. Observations on amoebaand parameciumindicate a capability for learning and thus profiting from experience. Stentorhas been observed to express a variety of behaviours according to the stimulus and previous experience. This single-celled organism is therefore capable of simple reasoning. Cooperative hunting was observed in amoeba. The potential inherent in large aggregated communities of bacteria is pointed out and several examples quoted. Bacterial intelligence is also claimed for signal transduction assessments. Communication in bacteria, that is meaning-based communication permitting colonial identity, intentional behaviour (e.g. pheromone based-courtship for mating), purposeful alteration of colony structure (e.g. formation of fruiting bodies), decision making (e.g. sporulation) and recognition and identification of other colonies, are credited with and resulting from a bacterial social intelligence and wisdom.

Keywords:   Slime mould behaviour, Amoeba, Stentor, Bacterial intelligence

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