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Three-Way Symbiosis

March 26, 2007

A three-way partnership thrives in scalding soils.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
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.

HIRSHON:
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.