This blog article suggests that trees use fungal networks to pass nutrients along to other trees. This other article seems to be saying that fungi use a variety of chemicals to communicate with each other and with other species.
But I don’t know if “passing resources through a network” counts as communication. Is this an example – or are there other examples – of trees deliberately communicating with fungi where a sender, message, and receiver are clear?
Having skimmed over some of that, I think it is safe to say that they’re not using the word “communicate” the way most people would. I’d say “react” is closer.
For example: Plants often move during the day to maximize their exposure to the sun. Does that mean that the sun is communicating a message of “Here I am!”, and the plants are receiving that communication? No. They’re reacting to a stimulus, but that’s all.
Of course the interaction between different organisms can be intimately dependent on each other, as your examples provide. A tree might offer a unique asset to an insect with a self-protection venom, and which will act thereby as a living pesticide.
I think that “communicate” in this sense just indicates that information is transmitted and received. It doesn’t require that the information be “understood” at an intellectual level as in humans. Even two bacterial cells are capable of communicating information between them and responding to it.
You’re quite wrong. This is a standard and perfectly legitimate meaning of the word:
This meaning is commonly used in scientific publications. Here’s just one example from the International Journal of Microbiology.
Yeah, it’s like rainbows. You’ll just be sitting there, minding your own business, and they’ll come marching in, and crawl up your leg, and start biting the inside of your ass, and you’ll be all like, “Hey. Get out of my ass you stupid rainbows.” Damn Hippies. They’re everywhere. They wanna save the earth, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad.
Complaints about anthropomorphism and personification are outdated and cause academics to take ridiculous pains to define and re-define concepts in order to hash out explanations that could be summed up neatly in commonly understood terms. Communication is a perfectly cromulent word for the chemical exchanges that occur between organisms.
Just look at the verbal gymnastics this guy goes through in order to qualify the term “communication”:
"Based on their apparently static life form, plants have been traditionally been viewed and treated as growth automatons. Today, however, we recognize that the coordination of growth and development in plants, like in all other organismic kingdoms, is possible only by using signs (Greek: semeion) rather than pure mechanics. Understanding the use of signs in communication processes requires a differentiated perspective. Chemical molecules are used as signs. They function as signals, messenger substances, information carriers and memory medium in either solid, liquid or gaseous form.
In this review I will demonstrate that plants are sessile, highly sensitive organisms that actively compete for environmental resources both above and below the ground. They assess their surroundings, estimate how much energy they need for particular goals, and then realize the optimum variant. They take measures to control certain environmental resources. They perceive themselves and can distinguish between self and non-self. This capability allows them to protect their territory. They process and evaluate information and then modify their behavior accordingly."
We should be at the point now where we can skip this rigmarole in order to make scientific studies more digestible for the layperson.
I think if you eat enough mushrooms trees might talk with you. Since the process involves the consumption of mushrooms, you are acting merely as the conduit facilitating the communication between the tree and mushrooms.
I think I should test this preposterous hypothesis. Who has mushrooms to give me?
Probably they do communicate. Not in the literal sense; Trees communicate to the mushrooms that there is “food around my roots” which makes the shrooms attach themselves and in turn nourish the tree in a form of Symbiotic Communication.
Excellent example, as it can be used to illustrate the problem I’m having with this. Here’s my question: Does the tree actually communicate this information (“there is food around my roots”) to the mushrooms, or do the mushrooms independently sense that this tree is a good source of nutrients?
You’re reading far too much of the sense of the word as used for human communication into it. As I pointed out above, as it is used by scientists it just means that information is transmitted and received. That doesn’t have to be intentional or deliberate on the part of either party.
This said, the research in question indicates that the seedlings of the trees in question receive benefit from the transmission of nutrients through the fungal network. Since this transmission is beneficial to the tree, in anthropomorphic terms it is likely to be “deliberate” on the part of the tree.