“Bacteria Are Amazing” – More Illustrations
In his latest video “Secrets of the Cell”, biochemist Michael Behe talks about wonderful bacteria that eat organic waste, remove odors from mud by conducting electricity, recycle plastic, aid our digestion, and more. “Friends, you can’t make this stuff up! he exclaims. “Bacteria are amazing.”
It’s true, and I provided some illustrations yesterday. Here’s more.
Think of man’s worst environmental disasters. The Deep water horizon the Chernobyl oil spill and nuclear accident are probably high on the list. The American Chemical Society has released a video showing how bacteria are good at cleaning up oil spills, radioactive waste and toxic chemicals – not that that fact gives humans the right to harm the planet, but it does. is interesting. The narrator, demonstrating a controlled experiment with oil-eating bacteria in her kitchen, was surprised that the microbes that flock to the oil spills didn’t need genetic engineering. They get to work on their own and seem to enjoy it. “Is it cool that genetic tinkering isn’t always necessary?” she comments.
However, much of our plastic debris collects in the oceans where it collects in huge spinning patches of surface trash called gyres. How many people faithfully recycle plastic bottles only to find in news reports that China no longer accepts compressed plastic barges from the West, and so they end up in the ocean anyway? It’s depressing. Some have commented that recycling might do more damage than throwing it in the regular trash. For those trying to be environmentally conscious, this is really depressing.
Environmental engineers are concerned because plastic waste accumulates and circulates in these gyres. But a few decades ago, scientists began to discover that these landfills were not lifeless wastelands. They are teeming with a class of organisms collectively known as “neuston”. new scientist reports:
Neustons are organisms that float on the surface of the ocean. They encompass a wide range of species, including blue sea dragons (glaucus atlanticus), purple snails (Janthina Janthina), blue button jellyfish (porpita porpita) and sailors upwind (Velella Velella).
Rebecca Helm of the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her colleagues found that there was more neuston at the center of the North Pacific Garbage Patch than at the edges. This is likely true around the world, as similar patches of trash are found in the South Pacific, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans. At least some forms of life live off our waste! Some organisms are quite beautiful.
So now Helm fears cleanup efforts are putting these thriving communities of organisms at risk. Another concern is that fish and whales could imbibe plastic while feeding on the neuston. It’s a race against time to give plastic-degrading bacteria time to work while higher organisms enjoy their ride on artificial boats. There is a research project: to what extent does the neuston ecosystem contribute to the decomposition of floating plastic?
If environmental engineers can find ways to speed up the good work of bacteria, it could turn out to be a much more cost-effective way to recycle plastic than packing it on barges. Maybe biodegradation could start earlier in the process. Either way, it looks like the food chain, with microbes at its core, has the power to degrade all that plastic eventually if a true circular economy takes hold and the buildup in the gyres stops.
A food chain of recyclers
Alice Klein’s article in new scientist does not mention the food chain, but previous reports have shown that microbes contribute to the decomposition of ocean trash and even larger man-made trash. We know that organizations recycle our wrecks on the high seas. If you want to visit the Titanic in submarine, you better hurry; it could disappear by 2037. The EE time explain why :
The iconic liner is actually disintegrating where it stands; as well as animals and plants, its inhabitants include bacteria, which are devouring their home at a staggering rate. A type of bacteria converts dissolved iron into insoluble iron oxide to create rusticles – like icicles, but made of rust. Other types of the dozen microbes present effectively eat the rusticles.
And so the evidence of the man’s grand schemes – elegant ballrooms under chandeliers on a doomed “unsinkable” ship – fades into memory, as the ocean takes its own. But there is a happy side to some of our shipwrecks. Multitudes of fish and other sea creatures have made their homes in and around South Pacific battleships, even those sunk by nuclear bomb tests. Given this discovery, some ships were submerged on purpose to provide refuges for fish and divers. Microbes and viruses are definitely key players in these thriving ecosystems.
Don’t reject bacteria
Instead of dismissing bacteria as primitive remnants of early evolution, design scientists can help our planet’s tiny ecosystem engineers solve some of the most pressing problems we face today. By viewing microbes as the intelligently designed systems that they are – having shown their advantages in many ways – identification advocates can partner with them. Like the first herders, they can bridle and saddle these tiny beasts of burden that are equipped to take on planet-sized loads.