Ask any gambler the secret to leaving a casino with the big bucks, and they’ll tell you it’s all about knowing when to walk away. Although they may not see it in these terms, the gambler’s wisdom is actually exemplary of a highly evolved and desirable trait in humans and animals: the ability to assess risk.
By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD
A gambler assesses poker chips and slot tokens rather than the more elementary resources (e.g., food and water) of the animal, but in both cases the success of the organism depends on its ability to accurately assess risk based on the availability of these resources.
Risk assessment has previously been documented in dozens of animals, including humans, primates, birds, and insects. Recently, a team from Oxford and Israel’s Tel-Hai College demonstrated for the first time that plants are also sensitive to the variability of resources in their environment, and are thus making risk assessments despite lacking a central nervous system.