How Do Plants Communicate?

How Do Plants Communicate?
Mycorrhizal Network allows Plants to Communicate

People communicate with each other through spoken and written words and actions. We also know that animals communicate by using sounds and movements. However, we may not be aware that plants talk to each other. They don’t do it by speech, writing, sounds, or movements. Since they are stationary and silent, how do plants communicate?

Plants are continuously engaging with other plants in their environment, mostly underground. For example, the roots of most plants host fungi, and working together, the plant roots and the fungi create underground structures called mycorrhizae. These mycorrhizae resemble a web system surrounding the plant’s roots, helping the plant absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in a symbiotic relationship. As the mycorrhizae help the roots absorb essential nutrients and water, the plant uses photosynthesis to produce sugars which it shares with the fungi.

But how do plants communicate? The mycorrhizae can connect multiple plants into a network through which they can share energy and information. This web creates a fine-tuned community-wide sharing system. Through this communication channel, plants can pass defensive chemicals to protect against insects. When pests such as aphids attack a plant, it can send a message to its neighbors so they can preemptively activate defense responses. In this way, mycorrhizae enable a system of cooperation between plants.

However, when resources such as light or nutrients are scarce, a plant can limit its mycorrhizae connections and avoid making new ones. Then when resources are good, they can restore their sharing network and even make new connections. When the plants connected in the mycorrhizae network are closely related, they share more than if their neighbors are not close relatives. Trees use these fungal networks to communicate and share but also sometimes to sabotage their rivals. Plants determine when to share and when to maintain their independence.

As we investigate the question, “How do plants communicate?” we realize that they behave as humans often do, putting their own interests first. Yet, sharing and working together is part of God’s design for life, and humans should always follow the example set by Jesus in His life and teaching. (See Matthew 5:38-48 and 25:31-46.)

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Reference: The Conversation

Oxygen Generators and More

Oxygen Generators and More

They are microscopic plants. You may never see them individually, but they exist by the millions on or near the surface of oceans, lakes, and rivers, even in polar regions. Scientists call them phytoplankton which comes from two Greek words that mean “plant drifter.” We call them oxygen generators.

You can see masses of green phytoplankton on the water surface because of the green chlorophyll they contain. Chlorophyll enables them to use sunlight and nutrients from the water to produce the nourishment they need to live. In the process of photosynthesis, they are oxygen generators. Of course, humans and all animals must have the oxygen to breathe, and phytoplankton play an essential role in our climate by controlling the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In the ocean, tiny animals called krill eat phytoplankton. In turn, the krill provide the diet for many fish and even for huge baleen whales. Those whales stir up the ocean, bringing to the surface minerals which the phytoplankton need. As whales eat and grow, they take in large amounts of carbon. When they die, their bodies containing the carbon sink to the bottom of the ocean. This well-engineered system helps prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Phytoplankton are incredibly diverse, with thousands of different species. The microscopic photo shows members of one class of phytoplankton known as diatoms. The carcasses of phytoplankton, algae, and other marine plants deposited on the sea beds long ago became the petroleum we use today.

Diatoms produce silicon shells, and when they die, those shells form deep deposits on the ocean floor. People mine those microscopic shells and use them for what we call diatomite or diatomaceous earth used in industry for fine polishing and for filtering liquids. In addition, gardeners sprinkle diatomaceous earth around their plants to protect them from insect pests. Scientists are also exploring uses for those microscopic shells in nanotechnology.

So, in addition to being oxygen generators, these tiny plants produce energy sources for humans and food for creatures of the ocean and freshwater lakes. Without them, our climate would be much different, and life would be difficult, if not impossible. Chance evolution doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation for diverse phytoplankton. We see them as another example of design by the Master Designer of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Complex Photosynthesis and Life

Complex Photosynthesis and Life

Photosynthesis is a biochemical process that plants, algae, and some bacteria use to create food and release oxygen into Earth’s atmosphere. We recently pointed out even some sea slugs can use photosynthesis. Complex photosynthesis and life defy accidental explanation.

Chlorophyll is the molecule that drives the process. There are two chemical reactions–one dependent on light and one independent of light. In the light-dependent reaction, sunlight enters the plant and energizes the chlorophyll. The chlorophyll splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and feeds electrons into nearby molecules. The oxygen escapes and the hydrogen is used later. The freed electrons make a molecule called ATP, which fuels cellular functions. With more sunlight, a molecule called NADP is produced.

In the light-independent reaction, NADP combines with the freed hydrogen to make a larger molecule called NADPH. These components, NADPH, ATP, and an enzyme called RuBisCCo, create sugars and other carbohydrates using carbon dioxide and water in a complex chemical process called the Calvin-Benson cycle.

Chlorophyll uses light in the blue and red part of the spectrum, reflecting green light, which is why trees and grass are green. Photosynthesis takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and forms the foundation of all food chains on Earth.

We have vastly oversimplified this explanation of complex photosynthesis and life. To believe that it could have happened by chance requires profound faith in luck. Photosynthesis reflects the wisdom of the Creator, who used some incredibly complex processes to establish life on this planet.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Autotomy and Decapitation

Autotomy and Decapitation
Elysia marginata sea slug

Japanese scientists have released a study of autotomy and decapitation in sea slugs. Researchers found that two species of sea slugs have the amazing ability to separate their heads from their bodies. The sea slug’s head continues to move while it regenerates a heart and other organs.

Autotomy is not a new phenomenon in the animal world. Many of us have seen lizards drop their tails to avoid predators. The tail continues to move to distract the predator while the lizard escapes. But this is the first instance where an animal drops its entire body. Both lizards and the sea slugs can use autotomy as many times as is needed. Japanese scientists have seen specimens regrow their bodies several times.

The slug’s head gets its energy to survive from photosynthesis taking place in cells it has acquired from its algae diet. The researchers believe the sea slug releases its body to get rid of parasites. The scientific community is interested in how this could be applied to replacing human body parts.

The complexity of what appears to be a simple animal is astounding. It’s a good demonstration that God has created animals with unique properties and abilities. Autotomy and decapitation reminds us that there are many things we observe in the natural world that we may use to solve some of the problems humans face.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can read the research report in Current Biology and see pictures and video HERE.

Ocean Treasure House

Ocean Treasure HouseOceans are essential for life on Earth. As we learn more about the oceans, we realize more and more how important the ocean treasure house is to our survival.

Fish, shrimp, and lobsters are some of the blessings that come from the oceans. Those vast bodies of water contain a great wealth of biomass that can address human food needs. The very fact that these forms of life lay millions of eggs that can provide massive amounts of food quickly is a testimony to the vast ocean treasure house. As humans conserve and farm these resources, we see the potential for food production with minimal environmental impact.

But food is only one of the blessings that come from the oceans. The oceans of the world provide water for the land. Evaporation lifts massive amounts of water from the oceans. The moisture condenses and falls on the continents providing the vital water needed by all land forms of life.

The oceans also moderate temperatures on the land. When Earth is closest to the Sun, its tilt exposes the Southern Hemisphere to the direct radiation of the Sun. Since oceans mostly cover the Southern Hemisphere, the water reflects much of the radiation, and the rest is absorbed and stored in the water. The water carries this heat toward the polar areas of the planet, moderating temperatures and allowing life to exist in abundance at the higher latitudes.

When the Earth is at its farthest distance from the Sun, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, exposing the land to the Sun’s radiation. The land surface absorbs more heat radiation and reflects less of it. The waters in the Southern Hemisphere moderate the climate by using their stored energy to supplement the heat from the Sun.

In addition to their thermodynamic uses, the oceans also control the gases that are critical for life on Earth. Photosynthetic processes taking place in the oceans produce most of our oxygen. The oceans are a significant carbon sink, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that would be in our atmosphere if the oceans did not exist. This not only restricts the adverse greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide but also recycles carbon in ways that benefit the entire planetary ecosystem.

Another ocean treasure house is the minerals they hold. The salt in the ocean is not just sodium chloride (regular table salt). The oceans contain a wide variety of elements that are critical to humans. They include iodine, magnesium, copper, and copious trace elements of biological importance. People who live far from the oceans benefit from these mineral resources because ancient oceans have deposited those minerals on land. Oceans gather and store the elements that humans need. While we have mined these ocean-deposited resources on land, we are now learning to take them directly from the ocean.

As science looks for life elsewhere in the cosmos, it is not likely that we will find it unless we find a planetary environment with oceans comparable to those on Earth. The ocean treasure house is a beautiful feature unique to planet Earth in our solar system. As science observes other stars and other systems, it becomes increasingly clear that planets like ours are exceedingly rare at best. God has provided the ocean treasure house that speaks eloquently of the Creator’s wisdom and power.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for life

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for lifePlant seedlings emerging from the ground use the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life. You may not be familiar with cotyledons, but you have undoubtedly seen them on newly emerged seedlings.

To get the idea, think about some other engineered devices that serve an essential preparatory function. When skydivers jump from a plane, they use carefully engineered equipment. The first thing they deploy to prepare for landing is a pilot chute. The pilot chute can’t land them safely on the ground. Its purpose is to deploy the main parachute. Perhaps more familiar to most people is the limited-use spare tire for automobiles. Those “donuts,” as many people call them, are not designed for high-speed driving or for driving long distances. They are engineered to get you to the nearest service station where the punctured tire can be repaired or replaced. The pilot chute and the limited-use spare tire are examples of engineered preparation.

Just as the pilot chute is packed into the jumper’s gear and the donut is packed into the vehicle, there is something packed into the seed called a cotyledon. Scientists classify flowering plants (angiosperms) as monocots or dicots depending whether they have one or two cotyledons folded into the seed. As soon as the seed has sent a taproot into the soil, it pulls in moisture and uses the hydrostatic pressure to push up a green shoot bearing the cotyledons. As those “donuts” break through the surface, they inflate to provide temporary, emergency photosynthesis. The seedling begins to drink up the water and nutrients from the taproot and use energy from sunlight to kickstart the photosynthesis process.

As the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life gets the new plant started, real leaves begin to form. In a sense, the cotyledons have taken the plant to the first service station or deployed the main chute. Now it is ready to go from a seedling to a full-grown plant or tree. The seedling still has many challenges ahead, just as the parachutist or motorist does. But just as having the pilot chute or the donut packed and ready for deployment aids the jumper or the driver, the cotyledon supports the plant. Would anyone suggest the pilot chute or donut are merely accidents? We know those devices would not be possible without engineering design. In truth, cotyledons require far more complex engineering that only the master Designer can do.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Synergy – Working Together

Synergy – Working TogetherThe word “synergy” comes from a Greek word meaning “working together.” We have often mentioned “symbiotic” relationships where living things work together in various ways. When non-biological forces work together with living things, we can call it synergy.

Synergy describes the relationship between plate tectonics and life on Earth working together. Plate tectonics involves plates of Earth’s crust moving in relation to each other. Plate tectonics is the force responsible for making continents and mountains and for causing volcanoes and earthquakes. Without photosynthetic life (plants), plate tectonics would have shut down because photosynthetic organisms provide energy for Earth’s geochemical cycles. Without plate tectonics, Earth’s crust would be a solid lid sealing vital nutrients and elements beneath the surface. The nutrients needed by plants would not be available. That means there would be no photosynthetic life.

Animals and humans depend on plants for food. The animals that don’t eat plants feed on the animals that do. It’s photosynthesis that removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases oxygen. All animals need oxygen, and excess carbon dioxide would result in a greenhouse effect, heating the Earth and making life impossible.

The point is that plate tectonics requires photosynthetic life, and life requires plate tectonics. Therefore all forms of life on Earth require both photosynthesis and plate tectonics working together in the right balance to exist. Was this balanced synergy system merely accidental, or was it planned? We think it shows intelligent planning by a divine Engineer.

For a fuller explanation of this, we recommend Dr. Hugh Ross’s book Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home.
— Rolnd Earnst © 2019

Life Adapts to a Sealed, Poison Cave

Life Adapts
In southeastern Romania in Constanta county near the Black Sea scientists discovered a cave that had been cut off from the outside world throughout history. Yet, even in a sealed, poison cave, life adapts.

Scientists estimate that the cave was sealed off 5.5 million years ago, and its air is low in oxygen (10%) and high in carbon dioxide (3%). That is almost one-third the amount of oxygen and 100 times more carbon dioxide as the air we breathe. The air and water in the cave also contain high levels of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. The cave is named Movile Cave, and it is full of life. Biologists have identified 48 species, and 33 of them are found nowhere else.

The food chain in the cave is based on chemosynthesis using sulfur instead of photosynthesis which requires sunlight. Bacteria which oxidize sulfur and methane release nutrients used by other bacteria and fungi. They, in turn, create microbial mats on the cave wall. Those mats are grazed by herbivorous creatures which are consumed by carnivorous creatures such as spiders, leeches, and water scorpions. Contrary to what the media has reported, life didn’t start in the cave. Instead, life has adapted to the cave environment.

Scientists have found life around thermal vents deep in the ocean and under the Arctic ice. We find it amazing that life adapts to hostile environments. We also believe this is a demonstration of the wisdom involved in life’s design. And in spite of what the media have reported, this is not necessarily an argument in favor of life under the crust oceans of Europa and Ganymede, the moons of Jupiter.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018
To find more information click here, and click here.