Canadian biologists have discovered plants are not as passive as has been widely assumed, exhibiting the ability to recognize siblings.
McMaster University researchers discovered plants can become fiercely competitive when forced to share their pot with strangers, but extremely accommodating when potted with their siblings.
"The ability to recognize and favor kin is common in animals, but this is the first time it has been shown in plants," said Associate Professor Susan Dudley. "When plants share their pots, they get competitive and start growing more roots, which allows them to grab water and mineral nutrients before their neighbors 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," she said. Dudley and student Amanda File said although plants lack cognition and memory, the study shows they are capable of complex social behaviors such as altruism towards relatives.
The study appears in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
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