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Plants can learn and link events: study

AAP logoAAP 6/12/2016 Rebecca Gredley

Plants can learn about their environment by linking events, researchers from The University of Western Australia have found.

The scientists from WA, in collaboration with researchers from Oxford and Zurich University, placed pea seedlings in a y-shaped maze to see how they responded after being exposed to light from a particular direction.

After the light was removed, the seedlings chose the best growth direction for survival, by correctly predicting where the light would come from.

Monica Gagliano from the Centre for Evolutionary Biology said the unexpected finding that plants were capable of associative learning would stir debate on the origin and properties of memory and learning.

"By challenging the way we currently view the agency of plants and their behaviours, which have enabled them to flourish, the research opens up new and bigger ecological questions of how modifications to our environment will shape future plant communities," she said.

"Beyond plants, these findings compel us to review our thinking about the essential mechanisms underlying information processing throughout living systems."

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