Monday, May 18, 2009

It's not me, It's you: self recognition and plant responses to herbivory

Many multicellular organisms have the ability to distinguish self and non-self. This is clear in animals, but is not so well documented in plants. A recent experiment published in Ecology Letters by Karban and Shiojiri clearly demonstrate that self recognition in plants can affect their response against herbivores. This very elegant experiment compared herbivory rates of plants growing near clipped clones of the same plants (themselves), and clipped individuals of non-self plants. Clipping is a standard way to mimic herbivory; plants grew in pots so they couldn’t communicate via roots and they did not touch each other. They found that plants that grew by a clipped clone had 42% less herbivory than plants growing by a non-clone. This is strong evidence that plants growing near clones (themselves) responded more effectively to volatiles cues compared to plants growing near a genetically different individuals. This study sheds light on the effects of communication among plants, which is clearly a topic that needs to be more explored, and that could be crucial to understand some ecological and evolutionary processes.

Karban, R., & Shiojiri, K. (2009). Self-recognition affects plant communication and defense Ecology Letters, 12 (6), 502-506 DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01313.x

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