Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions

Date:
November 9, 2011
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
In the fight for survival, plants are capable of complex social behaviors and may exhibit altruism towards family members, but aggressively compete with strangers. A growing body of work suggests plants recognize and respond to the presence and identity of their neighbors. But can plants cooperate with their relatives?

Population of interacting iris flowers.
Credit: Image courtesy of McMaster University

In the fight for survival, plants are capable of complex social behaviours and may exhibit altruism towards family members, but aggressively compete with strangers.

A growing body of work suggests plants recognize and respond to the presence and identity of their neighbours. But can plants cooperate with their relatives? While some studies have shown that siblings perform best -- suggesting altruism towards relatives -- other studies have shown that when less related plants grow together the group can actually outperform siblings. This implies the group benefits from its diversity by dividing precious resources effectively and competing less.

A team from McMaster University suggests plants can benefit from both altruism and biodiversity but when these processes occur at the same time, it is difficult to predict the outcome.

"The greatest challenge for understanding plant social interactions is we can't interpret plant behaviours as easily as we do those of animals," explains Susan Dudley, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at McMaster. "Though we have shown plants change traits in the presence of relatives, we need to determine if this is cooperation. Linking the plant behaviours with their benefits is challenging when multiple processes co-occur."

Dudley and a team of researchers disentangle the sometimes contradictory research in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, describing how the identity and presence of neighbours affect many processes acting on plant populations.

The problem, she says, is that plant social interactions are treated as a black box, with researchers only looking at the output, or the fitness of the plant, in sibling competition. But they need to investigate the mechanisms inside the box -- by describing how traits of individuals affect fitness -- to understand how the output is reached and which mechanisms are occurring to get there.

"Simply put, social environment matters to plants. If we first acknowledge that kin cooperation and resource partitioning are co-occurring, we can begin to address some very important questions," says Amanda File, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster.

"Among these questions is whether there is a link between kin recognition and plant performance, whether plant kin recognition can improve crop yield and how kin recognition shapes communities and ecosystems" says Guillermo Murphy, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. L. File, G. P. Murphy, S. A. Dudley. Fitness consequences of plants growing with siblings: reconciling kin selection, niche partitioning and competitive ability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1995

Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111109115816.htm>.
McMaster University. (2011, November 9). Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111109115816.htm
McMaster University. "Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111109115816.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins