, Volume 175, Issue 1, pp 63–72

Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters


    • Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal BiologyUniversity of Western Australia
  • Michael Renton
    • School of Plant BiologyUniversity of Western Australia
  • Martial Depczynski
    • AIMS, The Oceans InstituteUniversity of Western Australia
  • Stefano Mancuso
    • LINV, Department of Plant, Soil and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Firenze
Behavioral ecology - Original research

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-013-2873-7

Cite this article as:
Gagliano, M., Renton, M., Depczynski, M. et al. Oecologia (2014) 175: 63. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2873-7


The nervous system of animals serves the acquisition, memorization and recollection of information. Like animals, plants also acquire a huge amount of information from their environment, yet their capacity to memorize and organize learned behavioral responses has not been demonstrated. In Mimosa pudica—the sensitive plant—the defensive leaf-folding behaviour in response to repeated physical disturbance exhibits clear habituation, suggesting some elementary form of learning. Applying the theory and the analytical methods usually employed in animal learning research, we show that leaf-folding habituation is more pronounced and persistent for plants growing in energetically costly environments. Astonishingly, Mimosa can display the learned response even when left undisturbed in a more favourable environment for a month. This relatively long-lasting learned behavioural change as a result of previous experience matches the persistence of habituation effects observed in many animals.


BehaviourEcological trade-offsInformationAnti-predator responsesLearningMemory

Supplementary material

442_2013_2873_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (61 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 66 kb)

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014