Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Voicemail discovered in nature

13.06.2012
Insects receive soil messages from the past

Insects can use plants as ‘green phones’ for communication with other bugs. A new study now shows that through those same plants insects are also able to leave ‘voicemail’ messages in the soil. Herbivorous insects store their voicemails via their effects on soil fungi.

Researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and Wageningen University (WUR) discovered this unique messaging service in the ragwort plant. The influential journal Ecology Letters will soon publish these results.

A few years ago, NIOO scientists discovered that soil-dwelling and aboveground insects are able to communicate with each other using the plant as a telephone. Insects eating plant roots change the chemical composition of the leaves, causing the plant to release volatile signals into the air. This can convince aboveground insects to select another food plant in order to avoid competition and to escape from poisonous defence compounds in the plant. But the impact doesn’t stop there.

The new research shows that insects leave a specific legacy that remains in the soil after they have fed on a plant. And future plants growing on that same spot can pick up these signals from the soil and pass them on to other insects. Those messages are really specific: the new plant can tell whether the former one was suffering from leaf-eating caterpillars or from root-eating insects.
“The new plants are actually decoding a ‘voicemail’ message from the past to the next generation of plant-feeding insects, and their enemies,” recaps NIOO researcher and first author Olga Kostenko. “The insects are re-living the past.” This message from the past strongly influences the growth and possibly also the behaviour of these bugs. Today’s insect community is influenced by the messages from past seasons.

Kostenko and her colleagues grew ragwort plants in a greenhouse and exposed them to leaf-eating caterpillars or root-feeding beetle larvae. Then they grew new plants in the same soil and exposed them to insects again. “What we discovered is that the composition of fungi in the soil changed greatly and depended on whether the insect had been feeding on roots or leaves,” explains Kostenko. “These changes in fungal community, in turn, affected the growth and chemistry of the next batch of plants and therefore the insects on those plants.”
Growth and palatability of new plants in the same soil thus mirrored the condition of the previous plant. In this way, a new plant can pass down the soil legacy or message from the past to caterpillars and their enemies.

“How long are these voicemail messages kept in the soil? That’s what I also would like to know!” adds Kostenko. “We’re working on this, and on the question of how widespread this phenomenon is in nature.”

The research project was financed by a personal innovation grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to Martijn Bezemer from the NIOO.
The NIOO is one of the largest research institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), with more than 200 employees and students. It is specialised in fundamental and strategic ecological research. Since early 2011 the NIOO is based in a sustainably built research laboratory in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

More information:
• researcher Olga Kostenko M.Sc., NIOO-KNAW Department of Terrestrial Ecology, T +31-317-473627 or +31-6-29306980 (mobile), o.kostenko@nioo.knaw.nl
• researcher Martijn Bezemer Ph.D., NIOO-KNAW Department of Terrestrial Ecology, T +31-317-473607 or +31-6-19177330 (mobile), m.bezemer@nioo.knaw.nl
• public information officer Froukje Rienks M.Sc., NIOO-KNAW, T +31-6-10487481 (mobile) or +31-317-473590, f.rienks@nioo.knaw.nl

Pictures are available below (source: Olga Kostenko / NIOO-KNAW)

Article: Legacy effects of aboveground-belowground interactions. Olga Kostenko, Tess F.J. van de Voorde, Patrick P.J. Mulder, Wim H. van der Putten & T. Martijn Bezemer. Ecology Letters, summer 2012 (already freely accessible via internet - the ‘early view’ for subscribers is temporarily made available by the editors).

Froukje Rienks | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.knaw.nl

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>