1 Tahrcountry Musings: Here is a Surprise – Plants Can Recognize Self from Non-Self

Monday, June 01, 2009

Here is a Surprise – Plants Can Recognize Self from Non-Self

Here is an amazing piece of information from a recent research on plants done by Dr Richard Karban from Department of Entomology, University of California and Dr Kaori Shiojiri from Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University.

The scientists have gathered enough proof to come to the conclusion that Plants can recognize self from non-Self. The Experiments were done on sagebrush plant (Artemisia tridentate) and they have proved that the plants can recognize a genetically identical cutting growing nearby. The two clones communicate and cooperate with one another, to avoid damage by herbivores.
Identical experiments have shown that if a plant's roots grow near an unrelated plant, the two will try to compete for nutrients and water. On the contrary if the roots grow close to another plant from the same parent plant, the two do not compete.

Dr Karban says the plants are capable of more sophisticated behaviour than we have imagined.

The scientists placed the cuttings near its genetic parent, or near unrelated sagebrush, and let the plants grow wild in the University of California Sagehen Creek Natural Reserve. The researchers clipped each clone they planted, inducing the same kind of damage that might be caused by natural herbivores such as grasshoppers. After one year, they found that plants growing alongside their damaged clones suffered 42% less herbivore damage than those growing alongside damaged plants that were unrelated. The clipped plants appeared to be warning their genetically identical neighbours that an attack was round the corner. But clipped plants didn't appear to warn unrelated neighbours.

The findings are sure to alter the way we look at plants and have much wider ramifications when we think about it.

The details of the research are published in the journal Ecology Letters. (Volume 12 Issue 6, Pages 502 – 506)

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