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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/539

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535
TEE PERCEPTION OF THE FORCE OF GRAVITY.

for the pressure theory, and can not help us to decide between the two points of view.

Are there any general considerations which can help us to decide for or against the statolith theory? I think there are—namely, (1) analogy with the graviperceptive organs of animals; (2) the specialization and distribution of the falling bodies in plants.

Berthold (to whom the credit is due of having first suggested that Dehnecke's falling starch-grains might function as originators of geotropic reaction) is perhaps somewhat bold in saying that 'the primary effect of gravity' as regards stimulation must depend on the passive sinking of the heavier parts. Noll, too, says that Knight's experiment depends on weight, and not the weight of complete parts of the plantbody, but of weight within the irritable structure. I can not see that these downright statements are justified on direct evidence, and I accordingly lay some stress on the support of zoological evidence. It has been conclusively proved by Kreidl's beautiful experiment that in the Crustacean Palæmon the sense of verticality depends on the pressure of heavy bodies on the inside of cavities now known as statocysts, and formerly believed to be organs of hearing. The point of the experiment is that when the normal particles are replaced by fragments of iron the Palæmon reacts towards the attraction of a magnet precisely as it formerly reached towards gravity.

It is unfortunate that Noll's arguments in favor of the existence of a similar mechanism in plants were not at once followed by the demonstration of those easily visible falling bodies, which, in imitation more flattering than accurate, are called statoliths, after the bodies in the statocysts of animals. Personally I was convinced by Kreidl, as quoted by Noll, that here was the key to graviperception in plants. But it was not until the simultaneous appearance of Haberlandt's and Němec's papers that my belief became active, and this, I think, was the case with others. The whole incident is an instance of what my father says somewhere about the difficulty of analyzing the act of belief. I find it impossible to help believing in the statolith theory, though I own to not being able to give a good account of the faith that is in me. It is a fair question whether the analogy drawn from animals gives any support to the theory for plants. The study of sense-organs in plants dates, I think, in its modern development, at least, from my father's work on root-tips, and on the light-perceiving apices of certain seedlings. And the work on the subject is all part of the wave of investigation into adaptations which followed the publication of the 'Origin of Species.' It is very appropriate that one of the two authors to whom we owe the practical working out of the statolith theory should also be one of the greatest living authorities on adaptation in plants. Haberlandt's work on sense-organs, especially on the apparatus for the