Sunday, August 19, 2012

What a Plant knows - A field guide to the Senses by Daniel Chavotiz (Book Review)

Plants and Us - the shared genetic heritage between long separated cousins!

We as a species find it very easy to identify with other animals and we are adept at imagining anthropomorphic qualities in them but we seldom feel the same with plants. In this book ‘What a Plant knows’,  Daniel Chamovitz examines how plants see, feel, hear, smell and remember and shows us that the genetics underpinnings are the same as us, though they took a different evolutionary path in the last one billion years.

Starting with Darwin’s contribution in the study of plants (it is amazing  how much a single man has contributed to the field of evolutionary biology), Daniel looks at the different ‘senses’ from a plant’s point of view, the role of the various genes and how they have evolved to create the huge diversity in the plant kingdom that we see today. The best thing about the book is the way Daniel defines the fundamentals of each ‘sense’, how we humans use that sense and how it differs when it comes to the realm of plants.

Maybe not as eloquent as Richard Dawkins or as technically deep as Nick Lane, Daniel Chamovitz brings a different style of science writing that I found fascinating. Explaining the concepts in a very clear and simple manner, while not dumbing it down, Dainiel has done a remarkable job.  Though the book is on plants, I found its coverage of genomics (from the basics to the complex) one of the best that I have seen. (Never seen a better one line definition of ‘Epigenetics’).

We take plants for granted and see them basically as food for us. Though we  acknowledge their greenery, beauty and other contributions to making earth a habitable place, we still never take them as seriously  as we would consider animals or birds. However any one who read this  book will start looking at plants differently. From the carnivorous venus fly trap to the stately oak tree, we will start admiring the innovations that our cousins have come up with using the same genetic code that we share with them.

Don’t miss this book – it will enhance your senses!