University of Colorado Boulder study finds that, “Plants can be altruistic”

“A new study led by CU-Boulder involving graduate student Chi-Chih Wu, shown here, indicates corn plants may have an altruistic side.” Photo courtesy CU-Boulder

Researchers in this CU Boulder study looked at corn to find out if plants can be altruistic.  The findings suggest that, yes, corn plants can indeed be so.  The description and results are published at Colorada.edu:

“The results indicated embryos with the same mother and father as the endosperm in their seed weighed significantly more than embryos with the same mother but a different father,” said [Pamela] Diggle, a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “We found that endosperm that does not share the same father as the embryo does not hand over as much food — it appears to be acting less cooperatively.”

“A paper on the subject was published during the week of Jan. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors on the study included Chi-Chih Wu, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in the ecology and evolutionary biology department and Professor William “Ned” Friedman, a professor at Harvard University who helped conduct research on the project while a faculty member at CU-Boulder.”

“Diggle said it is fairly clear from previous research that plants can preferentially withhold nutrients from inferior offspring when resources are limited. “Our study is the first to specifically test the idea of cooperation among siblings in plants.’”

“One of the most fundamental laws of nature is that if you are going to be an altruist, give it up to your closest relatives,” said Friedman. “Altruism only evolves if the benefactor is a close relative of the beneficiary. When the endosperm gives all of its food to the embryo and then dies, it doesn’t get more altruistic than that.’”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s