From ‘tuned in’ spiders to signal-sending plants, we zoom in on some of nature’s advanced intelligence networks
Underground allies: fungal networks
We may think humans invented the information superhighway, but fungi got there first. Fine threads called mycelium act as an underground ‘internet’, linking the roots of different plants.
- There are an estimated 1.5m species of fungi
- Up to 90 per cent of land plants are in a mutually-beneficial relationship with fungi
- By linking into the network, plants share nutrients and information with neighbours and can sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals
- Mycologist Paul Stamets lists six ways mycelium fungus could “help save the universe”:
- Cleaning up oil spills
- Absorbing farm pollution
- Creating natural insecticides
- Creating more fertile soil
- Treating smallpox and flu
- Creating a sustainable fuel source
- Large trees help smaller trees survive using the fungal ‘internet’
For centuries, scientists dismissed birds as being less intelligent than mammals. Now they’re finding a new place in the pecking order.
- Tests have shown rooks and crows to be better than eight-year-old children at reaching treats by making and using wire hooks
- Birds can remember where they hid thousands of pieces of food even after landscapes are covered in a metre of snow
- Birds can find their way home after migrating thousands of miles. Arctic terns travel an average of 44,000 miles per year
Plant problem solvers
It’s a jungle out there, even in your back garden. All plants and trees need to find energy, reproduce and stave off predators. How do they cope?
- Humans have five basic senses. But scientists believe plants have at least 20
- Plants release pheromones to warn of insect attacks and other plants respond
- Plants also send distress signals, attracting predators of the insects that threaten to eat them
- Plants are sensitive. Every root apex can detect 20 physical and chemical parameters, from light and gravity to humidity and pathogens
- There are at least 600 species of animal-eating plants, including the venus flytrap
- Plants can survive even after losing 90 per cent or more of their biomass
Smart animal acts
Are you a human supremacist? Environmental philosopher Derrick Jensen explores our near-universal belief in the superiority of humans in this article.
All artwork: Give Up Art
This feature is from issue 88 of Positive News magazine
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