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New Scientist: Plants have “evolved” forgetfulness

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To wipe ou memory of stress. From New Scientist:

Some plants have “long-term memory”. For instance, Arrhenatherum elatius, a perennial grass species common in Europe, seems to remember drought and is better able to defend against damage from excessive sunlight than plants that haven’t been through an earlier drought.

Plants can preserve such memories across generations, at times via epigenetic mechanisms, which influence whether or not genes are expressed.

Ah, a mechanism. If the plant is not using a brain, what is it using?

But when Peter Crisp at the Australian National University in Canberra and his colleagues scoured the literature for examples of such memory of stressful events, they found that memory is more the exception rather than rule. “Generally plants are good at forgetting,” says Crisp.

The team argues that plants are making a trade-off. While being epigenetically primed against previously experienced stress can be beneficial, it also comes with costs. More.

Ths story is really about epigenetics, not about memory in the conventional sense of the term.

But he points out that plants also have “short-term memory”, which doesn’t depend on DNA and RNA. “This type of memory is not studied properly in plants,” he says.

The researchers might spare themselves lost time if they stopped thinking about plant memory in term of “evolution.” That entails the endless baggage train (at present) of storytelling in defense of Darwinian dogma.

Epigenetics is a slippery and short-term form of evolution, much better suited to finding out what has been happening recently than to defending a dogma about how or why all such things happen. And if plants have short-term memory that is shorter even than that, the less we hear about evolution (at first), the better.

See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wantedin the conference room!

Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain? (No, but read on)

and

More scientists doubt that materialism explains consciousness: Whatever the merits of Koch’s theory or Tonioni’s, they try to reduce the nonsense quotient (NQ) and deal with the relationship of consciousness and information

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Here’s the abstract:

Reconsidering plant memory: Intersections between stress recovery, RNA turnover, and epigenetics

Plants grow in dynamic environments where they can be exposed to a multitude of stressful factors, all of which affect their development, yield, and, ultimately, reproductive success. Plants are adept at rapidly acclimating to stressful conditions and are able to further fortify their defenses by retaining memories of stress to enable stronger or more rapid responses should an environmental perturbation recur. Indeed, one mechanism that is often evoked regarding environmental memories is epigenetics. Yet, there are relatively few examples of such memories; neither is there a clear understanding of their duration, considering the plethora of stresses in nature. We propose that this field would benefit from investigations into the processes and mechanisms enabling recovery from stress. An understanding of stress recovery could provide fresh insights into when, how, and why environmental memories are created and regulated. Stress memories may be maladaptive, hindering recovery and affecting development and potential yield. In some circumstances, it may be advantageous for plants to learn to forget. Accordingly, the recovery process entails a balancing act between resetting and memory formation. During recovery, RNA metabolism, posttranscriptional gene silencing, and RNA-directed DNA methylation have the potential to play key roles in resetting the epigenome and transcriptome and in altering memory. Exploration of this emerging area of research is becoming ever more tractable with advances in genomics, phenomics, and high-throughput sequencing methodology that will enable unprecedented profiling of high-resolution stress recovery time series experiments and sampling of large natural populations. (Public access) – Peter A. Crisp, Diep Ganguly, Steven R. Eichten, Justin O. Borevitz and Barry J. Pogson

One Reply to “New Scientist: Plants have “evolved” forgetfulness

  1. 1
    GaryGaulin says:

    Awesome video!

    Ths story is really about epigenetics, not about memory in the conventional sense of the term.

    I agree that the word “evolved” is unnecessary. But how can this story only be about epigenetics and not about learning and memory in the conventional sense of the term when that is what they just tested to be true for at least some plants? In the example in the video learning happened in hours of time, not generations.

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