Learning by association in plants

learning2Animals can easily establish associations between environmental cues and food sources, acquiring conditional information that guides their foraging behaviour and in consequence, their survival. Proving whether plants show association or conditional learning has been tricky, but fortunately for us, Gagliano et al. have come with a way to show that learning by association is, in fact, more ubiquitous than thought in the tree of life. With a couple of extremely simple but clever experiments, the authors unequivocally show that pea seedlings previously trained with a conditional stimulus can predict a future source of light, prevailing over innate phototropism responses. This conditioned response is mostly evident when the training overlaps the subjective day, suggesting that this behavior is regulated by metabolic demands. And people say plants are boring… I don’t think so! (Summary by Gaby Auge) Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep38427