Researchers at McMaster University have found that plants get fiercely competitive when forced to share their pot with strangers of the same species, but they’re accommodating when potted with their siblings.
The study appears today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
“The ability to recognize and favour kin is common in animals, but this is the first time it has been shown in plants” Susan Dudley, associate professor of biology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, said. “When plants share their pots, they get competitive and start growing more roots, which allows them to grab water and mineral nutrients before their neighbours get them. It appears, though, that they only do this when sharing a pot with unrelated plants; when they share a pot with family they don’t increase their root growth. Because differences between groups of strangers and groups of siblings only occurred when they shared a pot, the root interactions may provide a cue for kin recognition.”
Though they lack cognition and memory, the study shows plants are capable of complex social behaviours such as altruism towards relatives, says Dudley. Like humans, the most interesting behaviours occur beneath the surface.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Plants 'recognize' their siblings
From McMaster University