Clever parasite

Dodder vineLiveScience reports of a strange behaviour of a vine plant which entwines with a host plant sucking its nutrients. But it does not stop with that mischief. It also indulges in biological engineering in hacks into the intra-plant communication system of the host plant and does a sort of a sql injection to turn the host’s behaviour to suit the interests of the parasite!

Clever indeed. This is what the report says, inter alia.

It’s bad enough when a parasite latches on to your body to suck you dry. But when it starts eavesdropping on your communications, enough already.

That’s what the parasitic dodder vine does. It consumes water and nutrients from a host plant and, scientists have just discovered, it taps into the host’s communication system.

Plants use RNA molecules to send messages to different parts, say from roots to leaves. In the new study, RNA molecules from a host tomato plant were found in the parasitic dodder vine, up to a foot away (30 cm) from where the dodder grafted itself to the host.

Picking up these RNA messengers could help the parasite synchronize its lifecycle with that of the host plant, explained Neelima Sinha at the University of California, Davis. “It might be important for the parasite to know when the host is flowering, so it can flower at the same time,” before the host dies, she said.

Read the full story in the Live Science web site.

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