dimanche 19 juillet 2015

49- The spirit of plants -1- Mimicry


Orchids are plants considered among the most advanced. Some of them, such as those of the genus Ophrys, quite common in Europe, have evolved to attract their pollinators, often specific, to give themselves a better chance of pollination. They were able to change their flowers to make them resemble the females, so as to attract the male who will do, unwittingly the pollination work.

The scheme is very elaborate:

The flower releases aromas that copy to perfection the insect pheromones, those that allow the male to locate the female from long distance.
When the male is close enough, it must be able to visually recognize the female. The flower is disguised as a female, that is, it dresses the colors and patterns that the male will recognize at first glance.
Now, the male must land on the flower. And to make sure it does, and nothing makes it doubt, the flower has a very distinctive pilosity of the female.
The trap is in place and works perfectly. The male is fooled until the last moment. It will therefore pay its respects to Madame, thinking do its duty survival of its own species. In reality, it performs an essential work for the survival of the orchid.

It is a superb example of adaptation of a species to its environment. In fact, orchids are among the plants that have implemented the most sophisticated schemes. It's fantastic and wonderful. Many scientists and botanists are interested in orchids precisely because of the sophistication of their processes of reproduction and pollination. Darwin also wrote an entire book on orchids "The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects".

Here are some examples, among the many that exist

Ophrys fusca
Ophrys sphegodes
Ophrys apifera
Ophrys lutea
Ophrys scolopax
Ophrys insectifera

But try to look at it a little closer, from an unscientific observer perspective. Let's reflect on the genesis of such a process.
Can you imagine the complexity of the mechanisms that the plant had to put into service to accomplish this feat?
For it is not a simple process. Put yourself in the place of a stationary plant, without vision, without capacity for analysis, and try to adapt to such a complex situation.

Let's dissect the steps it had to pass.
First, it had to determine, "to become aware" of its pollination problem and its complexity.
Then it had to develop, "to imagine" a plan, a solution for its own survival, since without pollination there is no possible descent, and therefore there is a risk of extinction.
It had to detect, then observe its only pollinator insect, its life, its habits.
It had to determine the pheromone that the female products, for the male can locate it.
It had to watch the female enough to be able to know, in detail, what it physically looks like.
Finally, for the scheme to work, it had to carry out a process of self-transformation to mimic the insect to perfection.

It's voluntarily that I lend the plant a will, a thought, a reflection which it probably has not, or at least not in the way that we, humans are today able to understand it.
It must be admitted that it is a process of great complexity, which activates several senses like smell, sight, touch, plus an incredible capacity for observation, reflection and imitation, than are normally awarded only to animals.

Who said that the plants do not think?
Is there a form of plant intelligence?

It is obvious that plants have no brain, so they have no cognitive and sensory capacities of the same type as animals. Yet it is sure that complex mechanisms, obeying the imperative to solve serious problems are set up by plants. Many scientists and their teams are working to understand the mechanisms of communication and adaptation of plants to situations in which their environment set them.

I don't pretend to answer questions around metaphysics, but I will share some discoveries, some extremely surprising scientific works, and quite exciting.

It's not to exclude, that this could profoundly change your vision of the plant world. It is even possible that you cannot, after that, look plants the same way.

You have been warned...

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