Some animals are altruistic. Some plants are altruistic too.

Researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder have found evidence that suggests some plants are altruistic or unselfish or selfless too.

UC-Boulder researchers examined corn, in which each fertilized seed contained an embryo and a matching piece of tissue known as endosperm that nourishes the embryo as the seed grows. They compared the growth and behavior of the embryos and endosperm in seeds with the same mother and father with the growth and behavior of embryos and endosperm that had genetically different parents..

The researchers say:

“The results indicated embryos with the same mother and father as the endosperm in their seed weighed significantly more than embryos with the same mother but a different father..”

“We found that endosperm that does not share the same father as the embryo does not hand over as much food — it appears to be acting less cooperatively.”

“Altruism only evolves if the benefactor is a close relative of the beneficiary. When the endosperm gives all of its food to the embryo and then dies, it doesn’t get more altruistic than that.”

I haven’t seen altruism in plants yet. But I have seen altruism in animals. They are amazing.

Some scientists believe humans have in-built altruism. But most humans behave altruistically towards close kin than to distant kin and non-kin. I wish humans could be more altruistic towards non-kin, animals and plants. The idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ has been replaced by the idea of the ‘survival of the nicest.’


  1. lostintime says

    I agree, animals appear to be capable of altruism. Mammals often adopt orphaned animals from different species, and protect them against predators if they are sick or injured. Dolphins push struggling animals to the surface so they can breathe, and I remember reading about an orang-utan that saved a duckling from drowning in a zoo a few years ago. Dogs have also been documented doing some extraordinary things to protect humans and non-humans, as shown in the video.

    It goes without saying that I wish humans could be more altruistic towards non-kin and other species, and ‘survival of the fittest’ has become the stupidest adage to justify selfish behaviour.

  2. mildlymagnificent says

    ‘Survival of the fittest’ has been adopted and used, and twisted, by those who prefer to see this as a warlike or aggressive feature.

    In fact, ‘survival of the fittest’ is much more applicable to other characteristics. Within a social species with helpless infants, the “fittest” are likely to be those with the strongest instincts and habits of nurturing and protecting. Those who take special care of infant or other vulnerable members of their group and who are also promptly roused to vigorous defence or the classic hissing, spitting mother cat behaviour when responding to threats to those in their care are the ones best equipped to survive.

    The fact that both the nurturing and the protecting behaviours can spill over into unexpected or inappropriate territories shouldn’t be too surprising.

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