When There’s Nothing Else to Eat…

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While searching online for examples of natural selection I found something very fascinating: bacteria that actually adapted to eat nylon products.

A strain of flavobacterium that feeds on nylon was discovered in 1975 by Japanese scientists, specifically in a pond filled with factory waste. Nylon’s only been around since 1935, so any lifeform that feeds specifically on it would have to have cropped up relatively recently.

Needless to say, this discovery has been used a lot in arguments against creationism and intelligent design. I won’t get too deep into my beliefs in the issue (short version: I’m still a Christian, but I do believe in evolution and natural selection), but I find the existence of the bacteria more fascinating than the argument it’s used for. Could this mean that nature could adjust to deal with any of our waste products? Could evolution make pollution less of an issue? Really, this is fascinating stuff!

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2 thoughts on “When There’s Nothing Else to Eat…

  1. now the thought that bacteria or any other organism could evolve to eat plastics or other waste products is extremely thought provoking. the only problem i can think of is when they excrete the waste out would it be waste that wouldn’t be able to decompose correctly

  2. Bacteria would probably be the fastest sign of adaptation due to its life-span and ability to reproduce. It’s sort of like how the scientists use fruit flies to test genetic studies. With enough time, nature could definitely adapt to human waste products…but it’s a matter of time. The earlier comment also has a good point. What would the organism’s waste be? Would it be a substance that could decompose and fertilize? Or would it be a substance that would be as poisonous as the human waste? There are some animals that produce poisonous waste that can only be processed by other animals. Also, there probably are organisms that are adapting to the current levels of pollution. Here’s an example: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990930071733.htm

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