I watched a show on this. It was so fascinating. They were also explaining how plants from the same family (same mother), were somehow aware of it and were cooperative in sharing nutrients, actually to the point of sacrificing themselves which, wow, altruism. The same type of plants, but with different parents, actively competed for nutrients through their root system.
Nonsense, grass enjoys being mown, it's like a haircut. I learned that from a salesman.
They communicate with me via Bukkake...
Really pleased that they asked the evolutionary-advantage question, even though it only got a brief, unsure answer. Most people never even think to ask it, they just take it for granted that an organism would want to help its kind.
PBS Nature had an excellent show about this.
There's also a non geo-locked version YouTube if one were so inclined to search. coughs
I heard this on the radio a few days ago, and it seems like nonsense to me. Grass can't run away or defend itself, so sending out a signal doesn't seem much use. And even if it could, how does grass sense nearby grass being murdered?
On the other hand (leaf?), this is not new news, and this makes perfect sense, as the scent release attracts a predator that will do something about the plant's attackers...
Well, the PBS Nature episode that was posted actually shows you the answer to the questions you've posed.
Self sacrifice for the greater good of a population is a very common theme in nature. For example, it's been found that programmed cell death (PCD) has direct evolutionary roots among single-celled protists. In multi-cellular animals, PCD makes plenty of sense - it is used during development to remove unneeded tissues and create a correct body shape (body cavities, slits between eyelids, etc.) or to remove mutated/infected/damaged cells. For single-celled organisms, it is literally suicide, which is somewhat less obviously useful.
Turns out that stopping the progress of a viral infection by self-destruction is as valid in a population of protists as it is in an animal, for example. Or that "voluntarily" culling the population numbers when it's getting too crowded is a good idea so that at least some individuals survive instead of forcing everyone to starve. Here's a paper with some specific examples and speculation: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167488908000384
Aren't they all (more or less) clones, so they are really just protecting themselves via proxy...
Well, protecting oneself by proxy is, roughly, the basis of all altruistic behaviours, so you're correct regardless. But protists should be less likely to be identical clones than, say, bacteria. Most protist species are capable of sexual reproduction, which increases diversity of a population and uniqueness of individuals.
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