According to researchers in Germany, plants not only communicate with one another but also make decisions about how best to respond to nearby plants that compete for light.
The study, published in Nature Communications, found that plants responded differently to light competition based on which behavior provided the best growth opportunities for them. When the researchers put the plants in situations that simulated short, dense neighbors, they became confrontational and grew taller, forcing opponents into the shade. But when the researchers changed the light conditions to simulate neighbors so tall and dense the plants could not outgrow them, the plants instead developed a high degree of shade tolerance. And when the conditions simulated tall but sparse competitors, the plants increased their lateral growth.
“We have demonstrated a decision-making ability in plants which allows them to adaptively choose between three responses, according to the relative stature and density of their opponents,” the researchers said in a statement. The scientists didn’t explain how a mindless plant could “make decisions,” but it would seem God encoded plants with the ability to adapt to their surroundings. —J.B.