The ‘root-brain’ hypothesis of Charles and Francis Darwin: Revival after more than 125 years
Volume 4, Issue 12
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Pages 1121 - 1127http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/psb.4.12.10574
Authors: František Baluška, Stefano Mancuso, Dieter Volkmann and Peter Barlow View affiliations
This year celebrates the 200th aniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, best known for his theory of evolution summarized in On the Origin of Species. Less well known is that, in the second half of his life, Darwin’s major scientific focus turned towards plants. He wrote several books on plants, the next-to-last of which, The Power of Movement of Plants, published together with his son Francis, opened plants to a new view. Here we amplify the final sentence of this book in which the Darwins proposed that: “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of the radicle thus endowed [with sensitivity] and having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense-organs, and directing the several movements.” This sentence conveys two important messages: first, that the root apex may be considered to be a ‘brain-like’ organ endowed with a sensitivity which controls its navigation through soil; second, that the root apex represents the anterior end of the plant body. In this article, we discuss both these statements.
Received: November 9, 2009; Accepted: November 10, 2009