Kin recognition: Competition and cooperation in Impatiens
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The ability to recognize kin is an important element in social behavior and can lead to the evolution of altruism. Recently, it has been shown that plants are capable of kin recognition through root interactions. Here we tested for kin recognition in a North American species of Impatiens that has a high opportunity of growing with kin and responds strongly to aboveground competition. We measured how the plants responded to the aboveground light quality cues of competition and to the presence of root neighbors and determined whether the responses depended on whether the neighbors were siblings or strangers. The study families were identified by DNA sequencing as members of the same species, provisionally identified as Impatiens pallida (hereafter I. cf. pallida). We found that I. cf. pallida plants were capable of kin recognition, but only in the presence of another plant's roots. Several traits responded to relatedness in shared pots, including increased leaf to root allocation with strangers and increased stem elongation and branchiness in response to kin, potentially indicating both increased competition toward strangers and reduced interference (cooperation) toward kin. Impatiens cf. pallida responded to both competition cues simultaneously, with the responses to the aboveground competition cue dependent on the presence of the belowground competition cue.
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