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Acacia trees can warn each other of danger

By Dana Jordan
Published in Nature
February 02, 2024
2 min read
Acacia trees can warn each other of danger

Acacia Trees Can Warn Each Other of Danger

Acacia Tree

Acacia trees, found across various continents including Africa, Australia, and America, have surprised scientists with their ability to communicate and warn each other of impending danger. Recent research has unveiled an extraordinary phenomenon in the life of these remarkable trees. This article will explore the captivating concept of acacia tree communication and the mechanisms involved.

The alarm system of the acacia tree was first documented in the 1980s by South African biologist, R.W. Palmer, and further studied by ecologist Todd Palmer. They discovered that when a giraffe or an antelope feeds on the leaves of an acacia tree, the stressed plant releases chemicals that act as an alarm call to its neighboring trees.

The released chemicals, ethylene and methyl jasmonate, serve as warning signals which are swiftly picked up by nearby acacias. Upon detecting these signals, the neighboring trees initiate defense mechanisms to protect themselves from browsing animals. This defense response often involves the production of toxic substances that deter herbivores or insects.

Acacias in a Savanna

The mechanism behind this communication network is fascinating. Acacia trees have a complex underground network of interconnected roots known as mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the tree, aiding in nutrient absorption. However, research has shown that this network also functions as a medium for chemical communication between acacia trees.

When a browsing animal triggers a defensive response in an acacia tree, it releases the warning chemicals not only through the air but also into the soil through its roots. These chemical signals then travel through the mycorrhizal network, swiftly reaching neighboring acacias, extending the warning system to a wider area.

This extraordinary ability of acacia trees to communicate and mobilize a defense system not only ensures their survival but also highlights the intricate interconnections within ecosystems. It demonstrates the complexity of nature’s communication systems and the astounding ways in which different organisms cooperate and protect one another.

The findings regarding acacia tree communication have important ecological implications. Understanding this mechanism can help ecologists gain insight into the balance between herbivores and plants in various ecosystems. It sheds light on the coevolutionary relationships between browsing animals and plants, and the intricate ways in which they interact and influence each other’s survival strategies.

In conclusion, the discovery of acacia trees’ ability to communicate and warn each other of danger opens up a world of marvel and scientific inquiry. This hidden communication network reminds us of the fascinating intricacies of nature, where even plants have their own subtle language. Further exploration and research into this phenomenon will undoubtedly unravel more astonishing connections and contribute to a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Source: New Scientist




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Dana Jordan

Dana Jordan

Science lover

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