Navigation Links
Can a plant be altruistic?
Date:11/11/2009

The concept of altruism has long been debated in philosophical circles, and more recently, evolutionary biologists have joined the debate. From the perspective of natural selection, altruism may have evolved because any action that improves the likelihood of a relative's survival and reproduction increases the chance of an individual's DNA being passed on. Social behavior, kin recognition, and altruism are well known in the animal kingdom; however, although plants have the ability to sense and respond to other plants, their ability to recognize kin and act altruistically has been the subject of few studies.

In a paper published in the November issue of the American Journal of Botany (http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/11/1990), Ph.D. candidate Guillermo Murphy and Dr. Susan Dudley explore kin recognition in Impatiens pallida, commonly known as yellow jewelweed. Yellow jewelweed individuals are often found growing in close proximity to related individuals and are known to respond strongly to aboveground competition, making this species a likely candidate for kin recognition.

Murphy and Dudley measured plants' responses to two potential cues for competitionchanges in light quality (an aboveground cue) and the presence of root neighbors (an underground cue)for plants grown with strangers and with relatives. The researchers found that the response of Impatiens plants differed depending on whether the plants grew with relatives or with strangers. This demonstrates that jewelweed is capable of recognizing kin from non-kin and shows an interesting degree of complexity since both types of responses differed from plants growing with no neighbors at all.

Among close relatives, plants did not increase resource allocation to roots or leaves. Rather, they altered their aboveground morphology by increasing stem elongation and branching. This may be an example of the plants cooperating with kin by attempting to acquire needed resources without shading nearby relatives. Yellow jewelweed is found in the understory of forests, where light may be scarce but the soil is usually nutrient-rich. Because light is the limiting factor for plant growth in this environment, a plant competing with its neighbors would be most likely to allocate resources to leaves.

For Impatiens plants grown with strangers, the plants increased their resource allocation to their leaves relative to allocation to stems and roots, an indication of a competitive response. By moving their resources into leaves, these plants not only positively affected their own growth by enhancing their ability to acquire a limited resource but also negatively affected their competitors' growth by shading nearby plants and decreasing the competitor's light acquisition abilities.

However, these differences in response based on the presence of kin or strangers were only observed in those plants grown with root neighbors, indicating that communication among roots may be necessary for plants to recognize kin. Also, changes in allocation of resources toward roots in response to light quality only occurred in plants grown with root neighbors. This is the first instance where researchers demonstrated that a plant's response to an aboveground cue is dependent upon the presence of a belowground cue. This study demonstrates that plants are social organisms. It shows that altruism is possible among plants and that response to both kin and strangers depend on the ecology of the plant species.


'/>"/>

Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Circadian clock controls plant growth hormone
2. Layered approach may yield stronger, more successful bone implants
3. Clearance of hepatitis C viral infection after liver transplantation
4. Device helps patients survive, regain function til transplant
5. How the plant immune system can drive the formation of new species
6. The American Society of Plant Biologists announces 2007 awards
7. UCR plant cell biologist to study how plant stem cells maintain and change their identity
8. A study proposes a new universal rule to explain the equilibrium of plant populations
9. A study proposes a new universal rule to explain the equilibrium of plant populations
10. Study shows vitamin C is essential for plant growth
11. Clever plants chat over their own network
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/3/2017)... 2017 A new independent identity strategy consultancy ... (IdSP) . Designed to fill a critical niche in ... founding partners Mark Crego and Janice ... in identity expertise that span federal governments, the 9/11 ... Crego-Kephart combined expertise has a common theme born from ...
(Date:2/2/2017)... -- Central to its deep commitment to honor the ... Prize Foundation today announced the laureates of the ... in their respective fields of Life Sciences and ... recognized with the 2017 Japan Prize for original ... the advancement of science and technology, but also ...
(Date:1/30/2017)... 30, 2017   Invitae Corporation (NYSE: ... information companies, today announced that it will report its ... 2017 guidance on Monday, February 13, 2017, and Invitae,s ... at 4:45 p.m. Eastern / 1:45 p.m. Pacific. ... briefly review financial results, guidance, and recent developments and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/20/2017)... Feb. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - BioAmber Inc. (NYSE: BIOA ) announced ... CEO and Fabrice Orecchioni, the company,s COO, has been named President, ... the past four years, Fabrice has overseen the construction, start-up and ... and the management of the Mitsui JV.  Fabrice has also been ... China JV. ...
(Date:2/20/2017)... ... February 20, 2017 , ... Cancer diagnostics and pathology ... (Crosswalk), a unique precision medicine knowledge visualization and decision support platform. , ... diagnostic cockpit and is downloadable as an app for any mobile device and ...
(Date:2/20/2017)...  Former NFL players who had repeated head injuries may ... according to a preliminary study released today that will be ... in Boston , April 22 to 28, ... the muscles and nerves work together, like walking, kicking and ... ...
(Date:2/18/2017)... Kurzlehrgang mit Fokus auf Assay zum ... metaproteomische Analyse des Darm-Mikrobioms bei Säuglingen dar   ... Wie ... Peretz , Scientific Director bei ImmuneCarta, einen Kurzlehrgang zu ... intrazellulärer Zytokine bei adoptiven Zelltherapie-Studien im Rahmen der jährlich ...
Breaking Biology Technology: