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Understanding Volatile Communication in the Plant Kingdom

Do plants talk? Contrary to popular beliefs, plants are as equally adept in the art of signalling and communication as their animal counterparts. Prof. Renee M. Borges from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has spent many years delving on the many aspects of plants communication and their language.

A tug of war within a fruit

A fig is not just a fruit, but also a live nursery for insects. Starting off as a live nursery with more than 2000 flowers, called the “syconium”, it has then played host to thousands of tiny insects. These insects are more than just casual visitors — they play a tug of war with each other inside the fig, deciding between them how long it takes for the fig fruit to develop.

A wasp armed with a toothed, saw-like drill

Wasps lay eggs using an egg laying organ called the ovipositor. Some wasps lay eggs inside figs and need to drill through the fig fruit to do so. Researchers from IISc have unearthed the mechanism that these wasps use — they have teeth like projections on the ovipositor, like a saw. And that’s not all, these teeth are coated with zinc. Insights gained from this study may help us to build tools that aid in robot assisted surgery, and novel mechanisms to bore through hard surfaces.