Growing with siblings: a common ground for cooperation or for fiercer competition among plants?

Rubén Milla, Diana M. Forero, Adrián Escudero, Jose M. Iriondo

Abstract

Recent work has shown that certain plants can identify their kin in competitive settings through root recognition, and react by decreasing root growth when competing with relatives. Although this may be a necessary step in kin selection, no clear associated improvement in individual or group fitness has been reported to qualify as such. We designed an experiment to address whether genetic relatedness between neighbouring plants affects individual or group fitness in artificial populations. Seeds of Lupinus angustifolius were sown in groups of siblings, groups of different genotypes from the same population and groups of genotypes from different populations. Both plants surrounded by siblings and by genotypes from the same population had lower individual fitness and produced fewer flowers and less vegetative biomass as a group. We conclude that genetic relatedness entails decreased individual and group fitness in L. angustifolius. This, together with earlier work, precludes the generalization that kin recognition may act as a widespread, major microevolutionary mechanism in plants.

Footnotes

    • Received March 4, 2009.
    • Accepted April 6, 2009.
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