Going by a couple different names, including ‘touch-me-not’ and the ‘sensitive plant,’ mimosa pudica has been studied by researchers trying to figure out whether or not this plant is actually an animal.
Dr. Monica Gagliano of the University of Western Australia wanted to find out whether or not this plant had a short and long-term memory, as well as if it had any learning capabilities.
To test this, they placed a Mimosa plant in high-light and low-light environments, and used a custom-designed apparatus to repeatedly drop water onto the plant.
The researchers were able to demonstrate that the Mimosa plant ceased to close its leaves once it had recognized that the regular drops of water had no real negative or damaging effects on the plant. It was found that these plants learned this behavior “in a matter of seconds,” just as animals are quick to learn when subjected to harsh environments.
To further this amazing find, the plants were seen to remember everything they had learned several weeks before, even when the environmental conditions differed.
“Astonishingly, Mimosa can display the learned response even when left undisturbed in a more favorable environment for a month. This relatively long-lasting learned behavioral change as a result of previous experience matches the persistence of habituation effects observed in many animals,” note the biologists in their paper (which has been published online in *Oecologia *journal).
“Plants may lack brains and neural tissues but they do possess a sophisticated calcium-based signaling network in their cells similar to animals’ memory processes,” says the team.
While the biologists admit that they do not fully understand this learning mechanism and its basis in biology, their experiment has implications for the boundaries that distinguish plants from animals; specifically, the widely-accepted notion that learning is a trait unique to beings with a nervous system.
h/t sci news