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 New gene potentially involved in metastasis identified
26.03.2019 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Decoding the genomes of duckweeds: low mutation rates contribute to low genetic diversity
26.03.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New gene potentially involved in metastasis identified

Gene named after Roman goddess Minerva as immune cells get stuck in the fruit fly’s head

Cancers that display a specific combination of sugars, called T-antigen, are more likely to spread through the body and kill a patient. However, what regulates...

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Searching for disappeared anti-matter: A successful start to measurements with Belle II

26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Extremely accurate measurements of atom states for quantum computing

26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Listening to the quantum vacuum

26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>