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Plants and fungi recognize generous trading partners

Rewards for rewards stabilize underground biological market

2:26pm, August 11, 2011

One of the biggest underground markets on the planet — nutrient trading between plant roots and fungi — turns out to run on a system of reciprocal rewards for good suppliers and less business for bad ones.

“It may have taken 450 million years to evolve,” says Toby Kiers of VU University Amsterdam, “but unlike most human markets, here we have an example in which cheaters actually get punished and the good guys get rewarded.”

Most land plants participate in this exchange, as threads of specialized fungi wind into plant root tissue and form structures called arbuscular mycorrhizae. About 4 percent to 20 percen

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