Insects use plants as ‘green telephone lines’

April 27th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 27 (IANS) Some insects that live above and below the ground communicate with each other by using plants as “green telephone lines”, a new study has found. Subterranean insects issue chemical warning signals via the leaves of the plant. This way, insects above the ground are alerted that the plant is already “occupied”, according to the study by Dutch scientists.

This messaging enables spatially-separated insects to avoid each other, so that they do not unintentionally compete for the same plant, ScienceDaily reported.

In recent years it has been discovered that different types of above-ground insects develop slowly if they feed on plants that also have subterranean residents and vice versa.

It seems that a mechanism has developed via natural selection that enables the subterranean and above-ground insects to detect each other. This avoids unnecessary competition.

Using these “telephone lines”, subterranean insects can also communicate with a third party, namely the natural enemy of caterpillars.

Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside above-ground insects. The wasps also benefit from the volatile signals emitted by the leaves, as these reveal where they can find a good host for their eggs.

The communication between subterranean and above-ground insects has only been studied in a few systems. It is still not clear how widespread is this phenomenon.

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