Terpene Is The World's Most Spoken Language

Posted: Apr 14 2017, 12:41pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Terpene is the World's Most Spoken Language
Having a good conversation: Soil fungus Fusarium and the unrelated soil bacteria. Credit: 21 Lux photography/Heike Engel
  • Terpenes are the world's most widespread communication medium

It so happens to be the case that the smell of terpene is the microbial equivalent of a universal language.

If a creature is so tiny that it can only be detected via a microscope, than smell is a more efficient means of communication than language for that creature.

A group of experts have found out that two different types of micro-organisms – that is the bacteria and fungi – use fragrant signals known as terpenes to carry on complex conversations with each other. This is indeed news for us humans who consider language to be our signature strength as a species.

In fact, now it is being found out that terpenes constitute the most common means of communication on our planet. It is something we humans had overlooked due to our sheer size and clumsiness.

Terpenes are a chemical form of linguistics and signal-sending that goes on beneath our very noses (no pun intended). Very different classes of microbes use terpenes to get their messages across to each other. Thus the most used language in the global village is not Chinese or English but “Terpene”.

In a single gram of soil, billions of micro-organisms are thriving on a consistent basis. That is a whole lot of microbes that speak with each other in their own language. This chemical communication is not restricted to them alone though.

Other life forms also use this language of “lingering perfumes” on a regular basis. Serratia, a soil bacterium can get a whiff of the fragrant terpenes produced by Fusarium, which is a plant fungus that is a pathogen to boot. Serratia responds to these terpenes by increasing its motility and producing terpenes of its own.

The “switched on” genes of the bacterium were noted down by the researchers. Also the proteins it made and the fragrance it exuded were studied in depth.

These fragrances are actually volatile organic compounds. They are not exactly excreted but are rather instrumental in the language games that go on between bacteria and fungi.

Yet to ask the legitimate question of how common this linguistics of olfactory origins is may cause a pandora’s box to be opened up as a result. Soil fungi may make some plants to contract an illness.

Even plants and insects can communicate with each other using the power of terpenes. This much the scientists know with certainty. The world of “terpene talk” is apparently much wider than was thought to be the case earlier onwards.

Not only fungi, protists and bacteria but also higher animals can communicate in this strange manner. Terpenes are actually pheromones which are chemical agents used by animals for attraction, mating and social purposes.

These terpenes are also a fundamental ingredient in several perfumes on the market. It also looks like this is just the tip of the iceberg. Terpenes are the most common compound involved in microbial communication. There may be many more which we are hardly aware of.

This research is published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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