01/17/2014 - 11:25

The biological term “symbiosis” refers to what economists and politicians usually call a win-win situation: a relationship between two partners which is beneficial to both. The mutualistic association between acacia plants and the ants that live on them is an excellent example: The plants provide food and accommodation in the form of food bodies and nectar as well as hollow thorns which can be used as nests. The ants return this favour by protecting the plants against herbivores. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, have now found that ants also keep harmful leaf pathogens in check.


11/17/2012 - 09:32

Two years ago, a 71-year-old Indiana man impaled his hand on a branch after cutting down a dead crab apple tree, causing an infection that led University of Utah scientists to discover a new bacterium and solve a mystery about how bacteria came to live inside insects.

09/21/2012 - 09:25

An international team of scientists from France, Germany and the USA have discovered an unusual symbiosis between tiny single-celled algae and highly specialised bacteria, the first symbiotic relationship known between these types of organisms. Their partnership plays an important role in marine ecosystems, fertilizing the oceans by taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and "fixing" it into a form that other organisms can use.

11/14/2011 - 12:08

Not only mineral oil and petroleum gas, also phosphorous is a scarce resource. According to well-respected scientists who gathered together for a conference in Cambridge this August, we will face significant problems relating to phosphorous deficiency in just 20 years from now. Phosphorous, this important and essential mineral, is part of our DNA and, therefore, irreplaceable.

08/12/2011 - 06:17

Ecologists have long wondered why some species cooperate in mutualism — an association of animals or plants in which partners benefit from the relationship. Mutualism networks are generally complex. Multiple fungi, for example, colonize a single root, while each simultaneously forms connections with numerous plants, resulting in a delicate and intricate sharing of resources. The problem is that instead of cooperating, some individuals “cheat,” taking resources while giving little in return. So what prevents these mutualisms from disintegrating?