United we stand, divided we fall: intertwining as evidence of joint actions in pea plants

Bonato, B., Wang, Q., Guerra, S., Simonetti, V., Bulgheroni, M., Quaggiotti, S., Ruperti, B. & Castiello, U. (2023). “United we stand, divided we fall”: Intertwining as evidence of joint actions in pea plants. AoB PLANTS, plad088.

ABSTRACT: In life, it is common for almost every kind of organism to interact with one another. In the human realm, such interactions are at the basis of joint actions, when two or more agents syntonize their actions to achieve a common goal. Shared intentionality is the theoretical con- struct referring to the suite of abilities that enable such coordinated and collaborative interactions. While shared intentionality has become an important concept in research on social cognition, there is controversy surrounding its evolutionary origins. An aspect still unexplored but prom- ising to bring new insights into this open debate is the study of aneural organisms. To fill this gap, here we investigate whether climbing plants can act jointly to achieve a common goal, i.e. reaching the light. We examined Pisum Sativum plants growing intertwined when there is a need to climb but a potential support is not present in the environment. Three-dimensional kinematic analysis of their movement revealed a coordinated and complementary behaviour. They tend to coordinate their movement in time and space to achieve a joint climbing. By deliberately extending the context in which a joint action takes place, we pay tribute to the complex nature of this social phenomenon. The next challenge for the field of joint action is to generate a perspective that links coordination mechanisms to an evolutionary framework across taxa.