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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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Plant behaviour: first intimations of self-organization

Plant behaviour: first intimations of self-organization

(p.73) Chapter 8 Plant behaviour: first intimations of self-organization
Plant Behaviour and Intelligence

Anthony Trewavas

Oxford University Press

Behaviours are the responses by organisms to environmental problems, whether these involve movement or not. These problems can be generalized and are uniform for most organisms; finding food, avoiding pests and predators, and locating mates. Behaviour and intelligence in all organisms underpins fitness, and that includes plants, too. Plants, however, explore and exploit their two environments, above and below ground, by growth rather than movement. A simple model, developed by Herbert Simon, is used to describe plant behaviour. The model indicates that plants do not grow randomly—their behaviour is rational. Most higher plants have clear needs in terms of acquiring light energy, minerals, and water, and their phenotype changes, to access patchily distributed resources. Further needs require resistance to both predators and disease. Behavioural responses to both are well established. Signalling mechanisms are basic to solving plant problems. Agnes Arber was a classical morphologist. Her description of behaviour is outlined, as are her research contributions, but the limitations of traditional morphology are indicated. The fundamental difference between plant and animal cells quoted by Arber lies in the necessary presence of the relatively rigid cell wall in plants. Nearly all the unique patterns of plant development and behaviour devolve from that one evolutionary acquisition, probably necessitated by sugar accumulation from photosynthesis. The notion that plants are merely populations of meristems is discussed and its limitations indicated. Visible plant behaviour, i.e. largely phenotypic plasticity, arises from the capability of self-organization that underpins plant development.

Keywords:   Plant behaviour, Growth as behaviour, Herbert Simon, Predator disease resistance, Cell wall, Self-organisation, Phosphate deficiency

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