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Sagebrush Recognizes Self, Warns of Danger

Researchers have shown that sagebrush plants that receive volatile cues from genetically identical cuttings accumulate less natural damage (e.g., from grasshoppers) than do plants receiving cues from non-self cuttings. Based on their results, the authors, Dr. Richard Karban of the University of California-Davis and Dr. Kaori Shiojiri of Kyoto University, concluded that volatile communication is required to coordinate systemic processes such as induced resistance, and that plants respond more effectively to self than non-self cues. They noted that this self/non-self discrimination did not require physical contact and suggested that it is a necessary first step towards possible kin recognition and kin selection. In earlier research, Dr. Karban had 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.” The current research appears in the June issue of Ecology Letters. [UC Davis press release] [Ecologoy Letters abstract]