The oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit information

© Illustration RIA Novosti . The imagination of the artist (A. Polyanina)Prototaxites in the landscape of the Devonian periodThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit information© Illustration RIA Novosti . The imagination of the artist (A. Polyanina)

Mushrooms older than the first humans about a billion years. They appeared on this planet even before the first vertebrates. Now scientists believe that fungi evolved from primitive single-celled colorless flagellate organisms living in the water.It is difficult to understand: who were these ancestors of fungi, plants or animals… just as it is difficult to include mushrooms to some of these biological kingdoms. In the early twentieth century, the mushroom was attributed to the lower plant, and now consider them an intermediate form that is still closer to animals.

That brings mushrooms to animals? They look like small trees, so as not to move, but internally, as it proved to be closer to us. This set of characteristics: a biochemical, phylogenetic, fungi cell walls contains chitin, like insects, they have formed urea, which happens only in animals. In addition, for breeding mushrooms have one smooth flagellum, similar to human sperm. Now, when it became possible to look into the genome, the scientists closer moved the mushrooms to the side of the animal.

© RIA Novosti / Evgeny Coloringit mushroomsThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit information© RIA Novosti / Evgeny Coloringit mushrooms

A billion years ago, when the Earth’s surface crawled only small worms and ran wingless insects and millipedes, mushrooms have already created their own «Internet» — a device for the transfer of biological information. For this, they spread across the planet the network of hyphae is the filamentous outgrowths, which are necessary for the absorption of water and nutrients. Naturally, many plants are «outraged» because the mushrooms were taken from their place under the Sun! But then the mushrooms offered a new form of cooperation: symbiosis that is easy «cases for the roots» mycorrhiza, with which other plants got the advantage — they not only were protected from drying out, but could be pumped through a network of tubes need nutrients.

CC BY 2.5 / Ellen Larsson — R. Henrik Nilsson, Erik Kristiansson, Martin Ryberg, Karl-Henrik Larsson (2005) Root-tip mycelia of the Amanita typeЭктомикориза formed by the mycelium of the mushroomThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit informationCC BY 2.5 / Ellen Larsson — R. Henrik Nilsson, Erik Kristiansson, Martin Ryberg, Karl-Henrik Larsson (2005) Root-tip mycelia of the Amanita typeЭктомикориза formed by the mycelium of the fly agaric

Of course, these arguments are metaphorical plants, as mushrooms do not know how to reason and draw conclusions about their benefits. But the evolution of the run-in option which satisfied all coexisting species.

Was in the ancient history of mushrooms and their achievements: for example, mushroom giant, attained the height of 8 meters and a half! Scientists call them prototaxites (lat.Prototaxites). Not true, if you imagine the world of the Devonian (the Devonian period – 419-358 million years ago), and a huge eight-meter mushrooms that tower over lush green forests (tall, by the way, not more than a meter) and below them a well-developed system of «mushroom of the Internet», they more closely resemble the tower?! Fossils of prototaxites haunted paleontologists.

CC BY-SA 4.0 / G. J. at retallack are / Apex opf the «Schunnemunk tree» of Prototaxites loganii from the middle Devonian Bellvale Sandstone near Monroe, New Workscopy the prototaxites from the Devonian periodThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit informationCC BY-SA 4.0 / G. J. at retallack are / Apex opf the «Schunnemunk tree» of Prototaxites loganii from the middle Devonian Bellvale Sandstone near Monroe, New Workscopy the prototaxites from the Devonian period

The first giant of education, has found and described a canadian geologist by the American scientist John William Dawson (J. W. Dawson), and it was in 1857-the year. He thought it was a sample of fossilized rotten yew (Taxus), and therefore gave them the name Prototaxites. Then the scientists decided that it’s a huge seaweed, but haunted ring was found on the cut trunk. Could it be the rings? And doubts again, in no way they resemble the rings of a tree, rather it is a tube that goes inside…

© Photo : Penhallow, for Dawson 1888 — Hueber 2001Прототакситы in contextThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit information© Photo : Penhallow, for Dawson 1888 — Hueber 2001Прототакситы in the context

And only recently, Francis Heuber (Francis Hueber) of the U.S. national Museum of natural history (Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History), analyzing sections of the multiple instances of prototaxites from different countries, proved that it is a fungus. However, he can still be a lichen (a mixture of fungus and algae).

You can imagine how long mushrooms «bothered» by the problem of the formation of a private communication system. Recent experiments with tomatoes have shown that fungi transmit «information» rather quickly.

CC BY-SA 3.0 / TheAlphaWolf / Hyphae under the inverted logThe oldest Internet: how mushrooms transmit informationCC BY-SA 3.0 / TheAlphaWolf / Hyphae under the inverted log

Chinese scientists conducted an experiment on tomatoes, the United «mushroom network» and the control group of plants, where they grow was not given. The researchers were infected with fungus one of the plants, then, after 65 hours, infecting more and looked at his resistance to the disease. It turned out that in the presence of a fungal connection, the second plant was less susceptible to disease and if still sick, endured it better than tomatoes lone.

It turns out the information is really transmitted? Depends on what is considered information.

Says Alexander Kurakov, head of the Department of Mycology and Algology of the Biological faculty of MSU named after M. V. Lomonosov:

«Indeed, plants are very connected among themselves via mycorrhizae, for example, in the forest biocenosis: orchids and glushankova, and woody and herbaceous… They can share nutrients and exchange water, something to signal. This they can do. But this is all that «information» about which we can say in this case. I would say that the mycorrhiza — new opportunities. As the person sits in the car, and can move quickly, that is, it acquires new features. A plant with mycorrhizae acquires, for example, resistance to drought. But, no more.»

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