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How plants see, hear, smell, and respond without animal sense organs

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From Josh Gabbatiss at BBC:

In their experiments, Appel and Cocroft found that recordings of the munching noises produced by caterpillars caused plants to flood their leaves with chemical defences designed to ward off attackers. “We showed that plants responded to an ecologically-relevant ‘sound’ with an ecologically-relevant response,” says Cocroft.

For example, despite lacking eyes, plants such as Arabidopsis possess at least 11 types of photoreceptor, compared to our measly four. This means that, in a way, their vision is more complex than ours. Plants have different priorities, and their sensory systems reflect this. As Chamovitz points out in his book: “light for a plant is much more than a signal; light is food.” More.

The article cautions, refreshingly, against nuttiness:

This way of thinking has even led to law makers in Switzerland setting guidelines designed to protect “the dignity of plants” – whatever that means.

And while many consider terms like “plant intelligence” and “plant neurobiology” to be metaphorical, they have still been met with a lot of criticism, not least from Chamovitz. “Do I think plants are smart? I think plants are complex,” he says. Complexity, he says, should not be confused with intelligence.

One thing that greater understanding of plant awareness will do is refine and qualify our understanding of what we mean when we talk about awareness, intelligence, communication, and consciousness. Perhaps we will hear less about how rocks have minds and apes are entering the the Stone Age, and more about, for example, the specifics of behaviour without a brain.

The book noted above is 2012 Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows (2012)

See also: Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

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