Problem Solving Plants

By Anupum Pant

Neurobiological research on plants, sounds absurd, right? Not at all. Stefano Mancuso from University of Florence, Italy has devoted years of his life studying plants and he firmly believes that plants can communicate.

He often uses bean plants to demonstrate their mystical ability to communicate and their amazing ability to sense the environment. He has grown bean plants in a number of conditions (lighting, temperature, humidity, magnetic field etc.), while recording their growth through a time-lapse camera.

In his time-lapse videos it’s fascinating to see bean plants shooting out and making movements, as a blind man would do with his hand to sense the environment. Every single time, irrespective of its distance, bean plants are able to find the support stick to wind on…

This remarkable ability of bean plants, lacking eyes or any other known sensing techniques, has stunned scientists. Since it is sped up, the video of this shoot moving up the support stick looks a lot like some reptile’s movement.

Here, watch the time-lapse, you’ll see how amazing this little marvel of nature is…

Like a bean plant, there is another plant (if you could call it that), whose movements have interested scientists. Exactly like a bean plant does, this plant comes out too, searches and always is able to find another plant to grow on. At the same time, it is quite different from the bean plant.

Cuscuta Pentagona, as scientists call it, is a true parasite. That means, it has no roots, nor can it make food on it’s own – no photosynthesis. So, for food, it relies on neighbouring plants. And every single time, like bean plant, after coming out from the ground, cuscuta parasite is able to sense the healthiest plant. It then sinks in its suckers to suck out food from the host plant. Now watch the serial killer in action, in the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Alex The Genius Parrot – A Touching Tale

By Anupum Pant

Alex was a random African grey parrot that Irene Pepperberg, an animal cognition scientist, picked up from a pet store. She had a point to prove. There wasn’t anything different about this particular parrot. And yet, for 30 years, both the parrot and the researcher worked together for hours everyday and proved something no one had ever proved before.

Irene demonstrated that a “bird brained” creature was able to demonstrate excellent language, communication and intelligence. After the 30-year long experiment, Irene had clearly shown that it doesn’t take a primate sized brain to display intelligent behaviour – or the kind of behaviour we humans label as intelligent.

In fact she says, animals display extremely intelligent behaviour all the time in nature, it’s just that we humans have a different definition of the word intelligent.

Alex knew more than 100 english words, a couple of one liners, shapes and colours. More importantly, unlike what all the parrots usually do, Alex actually understood what he said. He displayed a remarkable ability to combine 2 different words from his vocabulary to say something meaningful. It wasn’t just repetition of sounds he did.

In these 30 years, Irene had become extremely attached to Alex, had started moving on to teach him more complex tasks and treated him like a child. But suddenly on September 6th, 2007 at the age of 31, Alex died. This event left a hole in the researcher’s heart. It made headlines the next day. Economist even published an obituary like they do for famous human deaths. It was indeed a huge loss for Irene, and science. Its last words were –

You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.