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Three-Way Symbiosis

March 26, 2007

A three-way partnership thrives in scalding soils.


How a virus helps a fungus help a plant. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

There’s a kind of grass in Yellowstone National Park that thrives in hot geothermal soils, which can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It was recently discovered that a fungus on its roots makes this possible. But in a strange twist, researchers have now found that the fungus confers this heat-resisting power only when it’s infected with a virus. Team leader Marilyn Roossinck of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma says this unlikely threesome is of more than just academic interest.

MARILYN ROOSSINCK (Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation):
With the global climate changes that we are all facing now, we’re going to see a lot more extreme environments on the planet. So we need to understand how plants normally tolerate natural extreme environments.

That may help us to grow crops if environments that seem extreme today become more normal.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.