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Plants Communicate Using Fungi 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the shroom-phone dept.
Shipud writes "In response to aphid attacks, some plants produce chemicals that repel the aphids and attract wasps, the aphids' natural enemies. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have shown that plants attacked by aphids can communicate that information to neighboring plants via existing networks of fungi in the soil. Thus fungal symbiosis with plants is shown to be taken one step further: not only do they provide nutrients to plants, they also function as communication hardware."
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Plants Communicate Using Fungi

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  • Some day... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 04, 2013 @11:51AM (#44470487)

    The vegetarians will be slaughtered for their terrible crimes aginst plantkind.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The vegetarians are our allies in our fight for freedom from our plant oppressors!

      --Fungi Liberation Front

      • by r1348 (2567295)

        Oddly enough, vegetarians have no problem in eating mushrooms. Once I tried to explain a vegetarian the difference, to no use.

        • It's not odd. Fungi are not in the animal kingdom. However, it is odd that they eat plenty of animal products, which are not vegetables.
    • I for one, yadda yadda, plant overlords, yadda yadda...

    • It's about harm reduction. Eating an apple is less harmful than slaughtering a cow, because the plant's survival strategy is to spread its seeds through birds eating the fruit and carrying the seeds to far-off lands. But the cow doesn't want to be slaughtered.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        But the cow doesn't want to be slaughtered.

        Not yet, but give the genegineers some time. We'll wind up with cows that self-slaughter on schedule.

        • by Vastad (1299101)

          The restaurant at the end of the universe has already got that contract.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The restaurant at the end of the universe has already got that contract.

            Not yet, it hasn't have had.

      • by sFurbo (1361249)
        Considering that by far the best way for genes to spread is for humans find the organism tasty, you could argue that, evolutionary, the cow does want to be eaten.

        Or, to put if differently, the survival strategy of any farmed organisms is to be eaten, so that humans will make sure that a lot of its children survive long enough to be eaten.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @11:54AM (#44470503) Journal

    Anybody else overcome by Alpha Centauri nostaliga at the notion of large, initially hidden, fungus-based communications networks?

    Also, given that we've discovered several enormous fungi (I think the largest known spreads across some 2,200 acres), I wonder if this sort of thing is actually much more common than we currently know. Ping would probably suck; but there is a lot of (fungal) fiber in the ground.

    • I think the largest known spreads across some 2,200 acres

      That's the NSA super fungus processing centre, created for intercepting spores.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        At the NSA, it's colloquially known as the "Mushroom Cloud."

        Thank you, thank you! I'll be here all week. Don't ask me why. Try the Chicken Tetrachloride.

    • Great, which city is working on "Ascent to Transcendence?" Dammit, It was Detroit wasn't it. Lets hope solar activity stays low. Otherwise a certain city is going to get nerve stapled.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Anybody else overcome by Alpha Centauri nostaliga at the notion of large, initially hidden, fungus-based communications networks?

      If by "overcome" you mean induced to play it until it crashes, no. But I was reminded of it as well.

      Ping would probably suck; but there is a lot of (fungal) fiber in the ground.

      At least they seem to have working multicast.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Anybody else overcome by Alpha Centauri nostaliga at the notion of large, initially hidden, fungus-based communications networks?

      Also, given that we've discovered several enormous fungi (I think the largest known spreads across some 2,200 acres), I wonder if this sort of thing is actually much more common than we currently know. Ping would probably suck; but there is a lot of (fungal) fiber in the ground.

      Credit goes to the wasps: they are the ones that adapted to use the scent of the aphid-repellent to identify a new food source. I think the potential in the fungus is a bit overrated, but hey what's cool is cool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 04, 2013 @11:55AM (#44470505)

    Old news [bbc.co.uk]

    • Fixed that for you: I've posted a link elsewhere in these replies that welcomes you to September, 2012 on CBC TV's "The Nature Of Things".

      There, that's better.

  • by killfixx (148785) * on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:00PM (#44470537) Journal

    Neat... ...would be terrible if this fungi network were to cross colonize with the fungus that makes zombie ants... [wikipedia.org]

    Cheers!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:02PM (#44470557)

    It's amazing to investigate fungi. In all of our space search for intelligent life, we stand on top of a living world that's far more complex than we can imagine. When we beings were evolving from very simple biology, at some point we split, and in one direction eventually became plants, and the other eventually became animals. After that split, there was another split. On that split, one direction eventually became animals, and the other direction eventually became fungi. In each split, as it were, there was a fundamental difference; each time a split occurs, one can associate one side with being more or less complex than the other side. Looking at this as one would look at a tree in nature, one can assume that each split can be represented as a node point, and at each node point, there is a stem, and a main branch that continues. Each stem represents less complexity. In our case, as humans, we split before the fungi did, so they're more advanced than humans are.

    I once asked my daughter about a Venus FlyTrap, as it ate a frog. I asked, "How does the plant know to close like that, and eat the thing inside? We have brains, but how does the plant do it? Where's the plant's brain?" Her answer, "The roots are the brain". She's 6.

    • by SpaceManFlip (2720507) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:21PM (#44470655)
      This, I think is the secret of fungi. The structures of mushrooms more closely resemble the brain of mammals than almost anything.

      It's a trippy concept to think of weird plant brains living under the soil everywhere, and popping up brain pods / mushrooms in random places from their mycelium.

      Then when you think about the ones that contain chemicals that allow mammals to have transcendent spiritual experiences, it makes you think about the Plant Brain / Planet Brain thing on a deeper level.

      • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:47PM (#44470769) Homepage

        Mushrooms aren't "brain pods", they are the reproductive organs, releasing spores into the soil and air.

        Not that fungal genitalia popping up everywhere is any less freaky if you think about it...

      • So the next time someone complains about your athlete's foot, tell him it's your secondary brain. :-)

      • The structures of mushrooms more closely resemble the brain of mammals than almost anything.

        Sure. Now show me where the visual cortex is in a fungal network. Or any reasonably discernable complex part with a specific function, for that matter.
        Big and connected network != highly organized network.

        Even the simplest nervous system is more organized than a fungal network. Let's also not forget that the study in TFA tested the communication capabilities over a distance of about 5cm. I know everybody was visualizing huge fungal networks communicating cross-continent, but we're not quite there yet - to p

      • by cthulhu11 (842924)
        Ob. Yuggoth reference. Somebody had to say it.
  • Sorry, couldn't help it... :)

  • yep (Score:4, Funny)

    by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:04PM (#44470563) Homepage

    fungi in the soil > facebook

  • Because no matter how far-fetched and imaginative there is something in the natural world even weirder and more complex. Right now I am getting into invasive species and grasses. Good times.

  • Their concerns, senses and physical manipulations would be exclusively chemical and at micro-scales. Their processing speed would be slow, but fast enough for them. A sense of self awareness may, or may not be useful to them.

    Fungi have been around a lot longer than us. A certain kind of intelligence might be useful to it. The only way we'd be able to tell would be to measure discrete chemical interactions between them and run a zipfs distribution analysis on the result (http://language.worldofcomputing.net/

  • I wonder (Score:4, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:39PM (#44470733)

    How long before some geeky boffin demonstrates that you can use this for computations?

  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @12:50PM (#44470789) Homepage

    Watch Dr. David Suzuki's "The Nature Of Things" episode called "Smarty Plants: Uncovering the Secret World of Plant Behaviour":

    http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episode/smarty-plants-uncovering-the-secret-world-of-plant-behaviour.html [www.cbc.ca]

  • And play the plants screaming at harvest time for all the vegetarians. How's that broccoli taste NOW?!
  • ...with luminescent mushrooms used for terminal output...

  • by paiute (550198) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @01:45PM (#44471003)
    When laypeople read these stories of interspecies cooperation, they might think: How do they know to do that? This leads to thoughts of intelligent design in a lot of readers. They need to be reminded from time to time that system A did one thing and system B did another. Under environmental conditions, system A's arrangment - arrived at at random - led to survival and B's did not. System A didn't sit around designing a better system.
  • It's not communication between plants via fungus, it's command and control of plants by fungus.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday August 04, 2013 @07:59PM (#44473443)

    There is unrest in the forest,
    There is trouble with the trees,
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas.

  • by lxs (131946) on Monday August 05, 2013 @06:39AM (#44475687)

    When Paul Stamets has called the network of mycelium in the soil "nature's internet" [ted.com] of course everybody thought that he had eaten a little too much of a certain kind of mushroom. Turns out he had eaten just enough.

    It's an interesting talk even if you don't buy into his more extreme ideas.

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow

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