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 Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Biological signalling processes in intelligent materials
18.07.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pollen taxi for bacteria

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Biological signalling processes in intelligent materials

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise

18.07.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>