Plants can engage in self-recognition and warn of danger

June 21st, 2009 - 11:58 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 21 (ANI): In a groundbreaking research, scientists have determined that plants engage in self-recognition and can communicate danger to their “clones” or genetically identical cuttings planted nearby.The research was done by Professor Richard Karban of the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and fellow scientist Kaori Shiojiri of the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Japan.The researchers took the sagebrush plant as the test subject and found that it responded to cues of self and non-self without physical contact. “The sagebrush communicated and cooperated with other branches of themselves to avoid being eaten by grasshoppers,” Karban said. Although the research is in its early stages, the scientists suspect that the plants warn their own kind of impending danger by emitting volatile cues. “This may involve secreting chemicals that deter herbivores or make the plant less profitable for herbivores to eat, said Karban.What this research means is that plants are “capable of more sophisticated behavior than we imagined,” he added.”Plants are capable of responding to complex cues that involve multiple stimuli,” Karban said. “Plants not only respond to reliable cues in their environments but also produce cues that communicate with other plants and with other organisms, such as pollinators, seed disperses, herbivores and enemies of those herbivores,” he added.In their UC Davis study, Karban and Shiojiri examined the relationships between the volatile profiles of clipped plants and herbivore damage They found that plants within 60 centimeters of an experimentally clipped neighbor in the field experienced less leaf damage over the season, compared with plants near an unclipped neighbor. Plants with root contact between neighbors, but not air contact, failed to show this response. “We explored self-recognition in the context of plant resistance to herbivory,” said Karban. “Previously we found that sagebrush became more resistant to herbivores after exposure to volatile cues from experimentally damaged neighbors,” he added.According to the ecologists, “Naturally occurring herbivores caused similar responses as experimental clipping with scissors and active cues were released for up to three days following clipping. Choice and no-choice experiments indicated that herbivores responded to changes in plant characteristics and were not being repelled directly by airborne cues released by clipped individuals.”In earlier research, Karban found that “volatile cues are required for communication among branches within an individual sagebrush plant.” This observation suggests that communication between individuals may be a by-product of a volatile communication system that allows plants to integrate their own systemic physiological processes. (ANI)

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