Clever plants chat over their own network

September 25, 2007

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 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.

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.

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 internetting?

Source: Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Explore further: Botanist discovers new ground-flowering plant in Panama

Related Stories

Botanist discovers new ground-flowering plant in Panama

January 21, 2016

Rattlesnake, zebra and peacock plants have a new wild relative, discovered by Rodolfo Flores, Panamanian botanist and intern at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Helen Kennedy, herbarium research associate ...

Investigation: US power grid vulnerable to foreign hacks

December 21, 2015

Security researcher Brian Wallace was on the trail of hackers who had snatched a California university's housing files when he stumbled into a larger nightmare: Cyberattackers had opened a pathway into the networks running ...

Researchers to sequence two wheat chromosomes

December 2, 2015

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced today that it would award 1.5 million Euros to a project aimed at providing a reference sequence for two wheat chromosomes, part of the international effort to ...

Recommended for you

Intelligent robots threaten millions of jobs

February 14, 2016

Advances in artificial intelligence will soon lead to robots that are capable of nearly everything humans do, threatening tens of millions of jobs in the coming 30 years, experts warned Saturday.

Proto-planet has two masters

February 13, 2016

A Rice University researcher will discuss images that may show the formation of a planet—or a planetary system—around a distant binary star at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science ...

Scientists glimpse Einstein's gravitational waves (Update)

February 11, 2016

In a landmark discovery for physics and astronomy, scientists said Thursday they have glimpsed the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein predicted a century ...

Gravitational waves found, black-hole models led the way

February 11, 2016

Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity in 1916, and now, almost exactly 100 years later, the faint ripples across space-time have been found. The advanced Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.