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Researchers Discover New Plant "Language" 70

An anonymous reader writes A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, that allows them to share genetic information with one another. Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, found evidence of this new communication mode by investigating the relationship between dodder, a parasitic plant, and the flowering plant Arabidopsis and tomato plants to which it attaches and sucks out nutrients with an appendage called a haustorium. Westwood examined the plants' mRNA, the molecule in cells that instructs organisms how to code certain proteins that are key to functioning. MRNA helps to regulate plant development and can control when plants eventually flowers. He found that the parasitic and the host plants were exchanging thousands of mRNA molecules between each other, thus creating a conversation.
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Researchers Discover New Plant "Language"

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    When is this feature going to be ready?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Patience, weed scientist at work.

  • Perseids (Score:3, Funny)

    by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @10:50AM (#47688851)

    Did anyone see the Perseids a couple of days ago? Did they look a bit green to anyone else, or was that just me?

  • Oblig. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Sigmon ( 323109 )
    It takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.
  • Vegetarians are conversation killers.
    • I have at least 4, or more like 5 of these parasites in me, that mind control me through mRNA exchange and direct synaptic nerve contact and what not. One I was born with, and never could completely identify, but it's the one that feels like electricity is running up and down my skin every time I have goose bumps, like experiencing beauty in music. It really loves good music. Then the Black Forest one, of the land of Imago, that back when I was 14, and went off fishing by myself, really went ecstatic when I

      • Btw, I am blood with all Imago, except the mosquitos, fleas, lice and ticks, etc. Out of those the ticks are the most friendly, as long as you know how to extract one and let it go on its way - you have to pull on it, and hold it like that for a long time, until it decides to let go, and you see these little legs move. If you pull too hard on the abdomen, it rips and the tick dies, the head and thorax remaining in your skin, and you get a big red infection spot and puss. But these imagoes are the sacred veh

        • Also, a parasite, which may be symbiotic for some people, even if reluctantly so, may be a deadly killer for others.
          It all depends on how much you love animals. Or how much ego you have. Or it's just plain up in the air, as in, your immune system may not be as good at the person that lives in symbiotic happiness with the parasite. Whichever way you wanna look at it.

    • OMG> Your joke hit me so hard. I'm one of those guys who has hung out with people dating vegetarians/vegans that have big mouths. And so every trip to a restaurant is actually converted into a short stage-show conjured up by the special-needs-diet.... Most of the conversation among the table and restaurant staff is then forcibly centered on adhering to providing foods that have not touched grills/equipment that have also touched 'flesh'. And then the food arrives and then its line after line about

  • A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, that allows then to share genetic information with one another.

    "that allows then to share"?

  • Does anyone know of any programs at their university for independent research in 'weed science'?

    • There is a series on Youtube, called "We eat the weeds." Though the very first thing is the warning of "do not eat anything you don't know what it is", and it's there so that if you do anyway, as humans have inevitably done in the past - how else would they have found out about it - don't sue the guy who posted the videos. That should go without saying though.

  • This sounds more than a little bit fanciful to me. In fact it reminds me of something from a David Brin novel.
    • The plants are "talking to each other" in the same way a human and a flu virus "talk to each other".
      • But, see, that's not really how they're presenting it. I understand that they're dumbing it down enough for the average person to understand, but it's dumbed down a bit too much, they're making it sound like the plants are sentient beings talking about the weather or whatever. It's not like that.
  • "i am groot"

  • Communication? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:30PM (#47689409)

    He found that the parasitic and the host plants were exchanging thousands of mRNA molecules between each other, thus creating a conversation.

    I think this is a little bit of a misuse / misunderstanding of the term / concept "communication".

    • Don't you talk with viruses when you catch a cold? I do, they're nice guys!

    • Re:Communication? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Livius ( 318358 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @01:11PM (#47689613)

      The 'communication' is massively exaggerated. It's simply host manipulation, which is not at all new, and what they've discovered is the phenomenon of a kind of information transfer - they have not discovered any form of language beyond what they already knew about mRNA.

      To the scientists' credit, demonstrating host manipulation by a parasitic plant, with physical injection of mRNA as the mechanism, is pretty cool and maybe will lead to all sorts of interesting science and practical applications.

      Probably it is just that the 'journalist' does not understand the meaning of the word 'communication'.

      • they have not discovered any form of language beyond what they already knew about mRNA

        Duh. Have you discovered any language beyond what you already knew about sound waves and ink? I thought not.

    • Re:Communication? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rutulian ( 171771 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @03:23PM (#47690195)

      FYI, the scientists who did the work did not report it as "communication." As usual, the popular science writers were a bit over zealous in their choice of words. []

    • He found that the parasitic and the host plants were exchanging thousands of mRNA molecules between each other, thus creating a conversation.

      I think this is a little bit of a misuse / misunderstanding of the term / concept "communication".

      I think that if you were a cell biologist, you would get the message more clearly. And mRNA is *literally* a message written in a language. As that message is passed around and read, it's translation has effects. This is the basis of communication -- a message, received, having impact.

      The more geeked out you get on biology/molecular-biology, the more obvious it becomes that each life form is a set of instructions that yield an explosion of self interested, self-replicating, adaptive and protective techn

  • look, TFA is good work, so props...DNA is not "communication" however

    am I quibbling about language? maybe

    my degrees are: double BA Communications Theory & Comparative Anthropology, my MS is in Information and Communication Science and my ABD PHD is in Systems Science

    so that might explain why I am taking issue with the use of the world "communication"...sure, in the sense that the universe is made of 'information' then yes, it's 'communication'

    in the cybernetic sense, communication as control, then it wo

    • mRNA is not DNA. DNA is the instruction set. mRNA are the messenger (message) RNA transcript that is translated so as to communicate a desired piece of information/function from instructions to actions. If a book tells you how to make brownies, and you read it -- you would say that you received a communication from the author on how to make brownies.

  • Is he sure its not the THC talking?

  • The equisetum (horsetail) has been around for so long that I think it uses FORTRAN.

  • by transporter_ii ( 986545 ) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @02:43PM (#47690009) Homepage

    Eating Plants May Change Our Cells - LiveScience []

    Called microRNAs, these compounds are the movers and shakers of our cells, as scientists have found they turn up and down levels of human proteins. However, until now scientists thought these chemicals were only made and used inside our bodies, but new research shows that microRNAs from plants can enter the human body.

    Chen-Yu Zhang at Nanjing University in Nanjing, China, found low levels of plant microRNAs from rice in human tissues. After testing the effects of these chemicals on mice, Zhang concluded microRNAs from plants could actually impact how the human body functions.

    • Fruits and Vegetables Are Trying to Kill You: []

    • by czert ( 3156611 )
      microRNA is a different beast from mRNA, though. mRNA stands for messenger RNA, the RNA molecule that transports the genetic information transcripted from the DNA in the nucleus to the ribosomes outside of the nucleus, for translation into proteins. Micro RNA, on the other hand, are short strands of RNA that attach to a "fitting" spot on a messenger RNA and thus affect its function in various ways.
  • Proof of Intelligence on Earth!
    Here we have proof that plants communicate. They have feelings too. Plants are sentient! Time for those namby-pamby vegans and vegetarians to stop killing plants. Please give peas a chance! Lettuce stop the senseless violence against the great kingdom of plants - eat bacon!

  • The scientist behind the study is M. Night Shyamalan
  • ... just said, "Feed me, Seymour!"

  • communication is not language. Language requires the ability to be infinitely expanded.

  • ... if this means strangleweed fills the plant world's niche that, in our world, is filled by the NSA?
  • I'm studying a formerly unknown means whereby certain plants, when heated, are able to transfer their mRNA to humans, resulting in a certain vegetativeness among the recipients.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.