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Plants too show altruism, says new research

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Sibling loveThe study tests the idea of cooperation among plants.Photo: M.Srinath
Sibling loveThe study tests the idea of cooperation among plants.Photo: M.Srinath

Dogs adopting orphaned kittens or dolphins nudging injured mates to the sea surface are prime examples of animal altruism. Now new research suggests that plants too share the same trait.

Researchers looked at corn, in which each fertilized seed contained two “siblings” — an embryo and a bit of tissue known as endosperm that feeds the embryo as the seed grows, explains Pamel Diggle, an evolutionary biologist.

They compared the growth and behaviour of the embryos and endosperm in seeds sharing the same mother and father, with that of their counterparts having different parents.

“The results indicated that 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,” says Diggle. “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,” adds Diggle.

“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 William “Ned” Friedman, who helped conduct the research.IANS

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