Goal-directed movements in pea plants

Contributors:
  1. Silvia Guerra
  2. Alessandro Peressotti
  3. Francesca Peressotti
  4. Maria Bulgheroni
  5. Walter Baccinelli
  6. Enrico D’Amico
  7. Alejandra Gómez
  8. Stefano Massaccesi
  9. Umberto Castiello

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Description: Movement of climbing plants has attracted attention since the time of Charles Darwin. However, there are no studies on whether plants plan their movement differently according to the size and structure of suitable supports. Here we report the discovery of what is the first empirical evidence that the movement of the tendrils of climbing plants is anticipatory in nature. The three-dimensional (3D) kinematic analysis of a climbing plant (Pisum sativum L.) demonstrates that the plant not only perceives the support, but it scales the kinematics of tendrils’ aperture according to its size well ahead the support is touched. When the very same support is represented in two-dimensions (2D), and thus unclimbable, there is no evidence for such scaling. In these circumstances the tendrils’ kinematics resemble those observed for the condition in which no support was available. We contend that the movement of climbing plants is not forcefully hardwired, but rather appropriately planned and controlled in ways that are adaptive, flexible, anticipatory, and goal-directed.

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