Picking battles wisely: plant behaviour under competition


A. Novoplansky. Fax: +972 8 6596821; e-mail: anovopla@bgu.ac.il


Plants are limited in their ability to choose their neighbours, but they are able to orchestrate a wide spectrum of rational competitive behaviours that increase their prospects to prevail under various ecological settings. Through the perception of neighbours, plants are able to anticipate probable competitive interactions and modify their competitive behaviours to maximize their long-term gains. Specifically, plants can minimize competitive encounters by avoiding their neighbours; maximize their competitive effects by aggressively confronting their neighbours; or tolerate the competitive effects of their neighbours. However, the adaptive values of these non-mutually exclusive options are expected to depend strongly on the plants' evolutionary background and to change dynamically according to their past development, and relative sizes and vigour. Additionally, the magnitude of competitive responsiveness is expected to be positively correlated with the reliability of the environmental information regarding the expected competitive interactions and the expected time left for further plastic modifications. Concurrent competition over external and internal resources and morphogenetic signals may enable some plants to increase their efficiency and external competitive performance by discriminately allocating limited resources to their more promising organs at the expense of failing or less successful organs.