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Rooting for swarm intelligence in plants

Researchers argue for a type of vegetative group decision making usually associated with animals

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5:47pm, December 10, 2010

They’re underfoot and underappreciated. But the roots of a plant may demonstrate the remarkable wisdom of crowds just as swarms of honeybees or humans can.

Three plant scientists now propose that roots growing this way and that in their dark and dangerous soil world may fit a definition for what’s called swarm intelligence. Each tip in a root system acquires information at least partly independently, says plant cell biologist František Baluška of the University of Bonn in Germany. If that information gets processed in interactions with other roots and the whole tangle then solves what might be considered a cognitive problem in a way that a lone root cou

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