Epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligent behavior in clonal plants

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Abstract

Environmentally induced epigenetic change enables plants to remember past environmental interactions. If this memory capability is exploited to prepare plants for future challenges, it can provide a basis for highly sophisticated behavior, considered intelligent by some. Against the backdrop of an overview of plant intelligence, we hypothesize: (1) that the capability of plants to engage in such intelligent behavior increases with the additional level of complexity afforded by clonality, and; (2) that more faithful inheritance of epigenetic information in clonal plants, in conjunction with information exchange and coordination between connected ramets, is likely to enable especially advanced intelligent behavior in this group. We therefore further hypothesize that this behavior provides ecological and evolutionary advantages to clonal plants, possibly explaining, at least in part, their widespread success. Finally, we suggest avenues of inquiry to enable assessing intelligent behavior and the role of epigenetic memory in clonal species.

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Latzel, V., Rendina González, A. P., & Rosenthal, J. (2016). Epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligent behavior in clonal plants. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7(AUG2016). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.01354

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