Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How ancient plants and soil fungi turned Earth green

Date:
November 3, 2010
Source:
University of Sheffield
Summary:
New research has shed light on how Earth's first plants began to colonize the land over 470 million years ago by forming a partnership with soil fungi.

Colonized plant.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Sheffield

New research by scientists at the University of Sheffield has shed light on how Earth's first plants began to colonize the land over 470 million years ago by forming a partnership with soil fungi.

Related Articles


The research, published in Nature Communications, has provided essential missing evidence showing that an ancient plant group worked together with soil-dwelling fungi to 'green' Earth in the early Palaeozoic era, nearly half a billion years ago.

The research, which also involved experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Imperial College London and the University of Sydney, has provided new insights into our understanding of the evolving dynamic behavior of Earth's land plants and fungi.

Scientists have long-suspected that soil fungi formed mutually beneficial relationships with early land plants to play an essential role in assisting their initial colonization of terrestrial environments. However, until now there has been a lack of evidence demonstrating if and how the earliest ancient land plants, from the early Palaeozoic era (over 470 million years ago), might have cooperated with fungi for mutual benefit.

The team studied a thalloid liverwort plant, which is a member of the most ancient group of land plants that still exists and still shares many of the original features of its ancestors. They used controlled-environment growth rooms to simulate a CO2-rich atmosphere, similar to that of the Palaeozoic era when these plants originated. This environment significantly amplified the benefits of the fungi for the plant's growth and so favored the early formation of the association between the plant and its fungal partner.

The team found that when the thalloid liverwort was colonized by the fungi, it significantly enhanced photosynthetic carbon uptake, growth and asexual reproduction, factors that had a beneficial impact on plant fitness. The plants grow and reproduce better when colonized by symbiotic fungi because the fungi provide essential soil nutrients. In return, the fungi also benefit by receiving carbon from the plants. The research found that each plant was supporting fungi that had an area of 1-2 times that of a tennis court.

Professor David Beerling, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said: "By studying these ancient plants we open a window on the past to investigate how the earliest land plants evolved. Our results support the idea that the 'greening' of the Earth was promoted by a symbiosis between plants and fungi. It shows that plants didn't get a toe-hold on land without teaming up with fungi -- this has long been suspected, but until now not investigated. It will require us to think again about the crucial role of cooperation between organisms that drove fundamental changes in the ecology of our planet."

Martin Bidartondo from the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: "Fungi are present in every type of habitat throughout the world and are essential for many plants to grow. It is exciting that we are now beginning to discover the fungi associated with 'lower' plants, and that many more still remain to be investigated."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Sheffield. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Claire P. Humphreys, Peter J. Franks, Mark Rees, Martin I. Bidartondo, Jonathan R. Leake, David J. Beerling. Mutualistic mycorrhiza-like symbiosis in the most ancient group of land plants. Nature Communications, 2010; 1 (8): 103 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1105

Cite This Page:

University of Sheffield. "How ancient plants and soil fungi turned Earth green." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101102130137.htm>.
University of Sheffield. (2010, November 3). How ancient plants and soil fungi turned Earth green. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101102130137.htm
University of Sheffield. "How ancient plants and soil fungi turned Earth green." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101102130137.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) — Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Drinks for Your Health

The Best Drinks for Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) — When it comes to health and fitness, there&apos;s lots of talk about what foods to eat, but there are a few liquids that can promote good nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the healthiest drinks to boost your health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) — From sweet cherries to sugar snap peas, spring is the peak season for some of the tastiest and healthiest produce. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best seasonal fruits and veggies to spring in to good health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) — If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins