Early sibling conflict may ultimately benefit the family

Smith, Atwater & Callaway

I am thrilled to announce that this paper has just been published in American Naturalist. In it, Ms. Smith finds fascinating evidence of sibling-recognition in seeds of goatgrass (Aegilops triuncialis), a species that packs seeds in pairs of one small and one large sibling. Larger seeds inhibited the germination of smaller seeds, but only when they were from the same maternal plant. When the seeds were from different parents, the larger seed did not suppress the smaller seed, and seedling competition was stronger. Fascinatingly, this occurs despite the fact that individuals of the species are genetically identical–somehow, seeds can sense their ‘kinship’ to siblings in a genetically-uniform population. Virtually nothing is known about neighbor recognition in plants. Ms. Smith’s daring research shines a fascinating glimpse into this mysterious, important, and poorly-understood subject.