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Clever Plants 'Chat' Over Their Own Network

Date:
September 27, 2007
Source:
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Summary:
Recent research reveals that plants have their own 'chat' systems that they can use to warn each other. Therefore plants are not boring and passive organisms that just stand there waiting to be cut off or eaten up. Many plants form internal communications networks and are able to exchange information efficiently.

Clover plants can warn each other via a network of runners.
Credit: Image courtesy of Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Recent research from Vidi researcher Josef Stuefer at the Radboud University Nijmegen reveals that plants have their own chat systems that they can use to warn each other.

Therefore plants cannot be considered boring and passive organisms that just stand there waiting to be cut off or eaten up. Many plants form internal communications networks and are able to exchange information efficiently.

Chat network

Many herbal plants such as strawberry, clover, reed and ground elder naturally form networks. Individual plants remain connected with each other for a certain period of time by means of runners. These connections enable the plants to share information with each other via internal channels. They are therefore very similar to computer networks. But what do plants want to chat to each other about?

Recently Stuefer and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate that clover plants warn each other via the network links if enemies are nearby. If one of the plants is attacked by caterpillars, the other members of the network are warned via an internal signal. Once warned, the intact plants strengthen their chemical and mechanical resistance so that they are less attractive for advancing caterpillars.

Thanks to this early warning system, the plants can stay one step ahead of their attackers. Experimental research has revealed that this significantly limits the damage to the plants.

Viruses

However there are two sides to the coin. That is not just the case for the Internet but also for plants. It appears that plant viruses can use the infrastructure present to rapidly spread through the connected plants. The infection of one plant therefore leads to the infection of all plants within the network.

This research clearly reveals that the general image of plants is a poor reflection of reality. Who had now suspected that the majority of plants around us are constantly networking?

This research is part of the Vidi project 'Plant Intranets. Costs, benefits, & risks of communication pathways in clonal plant networks' that was funded by NWO and the Radboud University Nijmegen.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "Clever Plants 'Chat' Over Their Own Network." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925095313.htm>.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. (2007, September 27). Clever Plants 'Chat' Over Their Own Network. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925095313.htm
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "Clever Plants 'Chat' Over Their Own Network." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925095313.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

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