Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters
- 7.2k Downloads
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.
KeywordsBehaviour Ecological trade-offs Information Anti-predator responses Learning Memory
We thank Elisa Azzarello and Elisa Masi for assistance with setting up the light environments, and Leigh Simmons, Joseph Tomkins, Anthony Trewavas, Daniel Robert for valuable comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by Research Fellowships from the University of Western Australia and the Australian Research Council to M. G. and research funding from European Commission to S. M.
- Allis CD, Jenuwein T, Reinberg D, Caparros ML (2007) Epigenetics. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B (2011) lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999375-42. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lme4
- Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodal inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Dostál R (1967) On integration in plants. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Hoagland DR, Arnon DI (1950) The water-culture method for growing plants without soil. Calif Agric Exp Stat Circ 347:1–32Google Scholar
- Petrinovich L, Widaman KF (1984) An evaluation of statistical strategies to analyse repeated-measures data. In: Peeke HVS, Petrinovich L (eds) Habituation, sensitization, and behaviour. Academic Press, New York, pp 155–201Google Scholar
- Rankin CH, Abrams T, Barry RJ, Bhatnagar S, Clayton DF, Colombo J, Coppola G, Geyer MA, Glanzman DL, Marsland S, et al. (2009) Habituation revisited: an updated and revised description of the behavioural characteristics of habituation. Neurobiol Learn Mem 92:135–138PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Roshchina VV (2001) Neurotransmitters in plant life. Science Publishers, EnfieldGoogle Scholar
- Thorpe WH (1963) Learning and instinct in animals. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar