The Internet is a great invention. It allows us to communicate from hundreds of miles away, connect with a lot of people, and share and store millions of information that is accessible through the Internet. And it doesn’t just share text, it allows us to share photos, videos, programs, and games to help make our lives easier and entertain us. But did you know there is a version of the World Wide Web in nature? It’s called the mycorrhizal networks, or better known as the Wood Wide Web.
The Wood Wide Web is connected through mycelium, which is the part under the mushroom (the mushroom is the fruiting body of the fungi). Most of the mushroom is hyphae, which makes the mycelium. Because the hyphae is fibrous, it becomes the “optic cables” of the plant world. Plants can “go online” in the network of mycelium and connect to other plants. They share nutrients with other plants connected to the web, so it is very helpful to plants who don’t get much nutrients. For instance, a sapling can’t get much exposure to the sun since many taller trees blocks the sunlight. The sapling might jack into the Wood Wide Web to receive some glucose that it needs to grow. Others use it to send messages of an impending attack. For example, if a tree is attacked by a parasitic fungi, the tree will send chemical signals through the web to warn others of the fungi. The trees that receive the signals are shown to get antibodies to gear up for the attack and therefore, the other trees don’t get infected, or show only minor damage. The fungi that runs the Wood Wide Web gets some of the food to supply themselves, and expand their Wood Wide Web.
In the Internet, there are computer viruses or other forms of malware. The same goes for plant life. Some plants will sent harmful chemicals through the Wood Wide Web to other plants to get rid of competition. The chemicals can have a variety of effects. For example, the Golden Marigold can spread a chemical that can stunt growth of plants through the web. Others can jack into the web to sap the nutrients that is sent through the hyphae. A plant called the phantom orchid (aka a snow orchid) is a good example. It’s name is “snow orchid” because every part of the plant is white except the yellow in the flowers. It lacks pigment required for photosynthesis, so it relies on the stream of nutrients that flows through the hyphae to feed itself.
This is one example of a symbiotic relationship between living things. A symbiotic relationship is an organism that works with another organism to survive. Both get benefits from working with each other, like most of us do.
Photo source from home page: http://pilerats.com/written/light-easy/the-right-stuff-6-underground-fungi-and-the-wood-wide-web/