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A tropism (from Greek, tropos, to turn) is a biological phenomenon, indicating growth or turning movement of a biological organism, usually a plant, in response to an environmental stimulus. In tropisms, this response is dependent on the direction of the stimulus (as opposed to nastic movements which are non-directional responses). Viruses and other pathogens also affect what is called "host tropism" or "cell tropism" in which case tropism refers to the way in which different viruses/pathogens have evolved to preferentially target specific host species, or specific cell types within those species. The word tropism comes from the Greek trope ("to turn" or "to change"). Tropisms are usually named for the stimulus involved (for example, a phototropism is a reaction to light) and may be either positive (towards the stimulus) or negative (away from the stimulus).
Tropisms are typically associated with plants (although not necessarily restricted to them). Where an organism is capable of directed physical movement (motility), movement or activity in response to a specific stimulus is more likely to be regarded by behaviorists as a taxis (directional response) or a kinesis (non-directional response).
In English, the word tropism is used in sometimes derisive way to indicate an action done without cognitive thought: However, "tropism" in this sense has a proper, although non-scientific, meaning as an innate tendency, natural inclination, or propensity to act in a certain manner.
Types of tropisms
- Chemotropism, movement or growth in response to chemicals
- Gravitropism (or geotropism), movement or growth in response to gravity
- Hydrotropism, movement or growth in response to moisture or water
- Heliotropism, movement or growth in response to sunlight
- Phototropism, movement or growth in response to lights or colors of light
- Thermotropism, movement or growth in response to temperature
- Thigmotropism, movement or growth in response to touch or contact
- Host tropism or cell tropism, the host range of pathogens