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Keywords:

  • Artemisia tridentata;
  • eavesdropping;
  • induced resistance;
  • kin selection;
  • neighbour;
  • non-self;
  • plant behaviour;
  • self;
  • volatile cue

Abstract

Animals have the ability to distinguish self from non-self, which has allowed them to evolve immune systems and, in some instances, to act preferentially towards individuals that are genetically identical or related. Self-recognition is less well known for plants, although recent work indicates that physically connected roots recognize self and reduce competitive interactions. Sagebrush uses volatile cues emitted by clipped branches of self or different neighbours to increase resistance to herbivory. Here, we show that plants that received volatile cues from genetically identical cuttings accumulated less natural damage than plants that received cues from non-self cuttings. Volatile communication is required to coordinate systemic processes such as induced resistance and plants respond more effectively to self than non-self cues. This self/non-self discrimination did not require physical contact and is a necessary first step towards possible kin recognition and kin selection.