Researchers have just documented how plants use underground fungal networks to warn neighboring plants of impending insect attack, uniquely illustrating the complex and highly designed interconnected cooperation found in nature.
The research study—just published in the July, 2013 issue of Ecology Letters—is the first such report that confirms and reveals how plants have uniquely co-designed physiologies that internetwork with other plants using an underground fungus as an information conduit.1 This amazing and intricate system allows the plants to readily and effectively communicate as a community, like a natural biological internet.
Prior to this study, scientists were aware that mutually beneficial relationships existed between plants and certain fungi that colonize the soil surrounding the plants’ root systems. These beneficial soil microorganisms are called “mycorrhizal fungi” and are known to promote overall plant growth and help them cope with insect attacks, pathogens, and drought stress.1 In fact, scientists had been aware of the possibility that mycorrhizal fungi could enable plants growing together in close groups to signal and prime each other’s chemical defense systems in response to attacks by insects.2
In a paper published just last year, scientists proposed the idea that this communication occurs through the release and detection of information-carrying chemicals that traverse the soil matrix through mycorrhizal networks that work like information superhighways directly connecting plants below ground.3 This is accomplished because the thread-like fungus grows underground, producing strands called mycelia that connect one set of roots to another. Now this research hypothesis has been spectacularly confirmed….