Evolved Earthworms To Clean Up Toxic Metals

Earthworms that have evolved to thrive in contaminated soils may be able to help human beings clean up polluted industrial sites.

British scientists believe that earthworms have been forced into rapid evolutionary change in abandoned mines; these "super worms" are able to live in soil that is heavily laced with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, zinc and cesium.

"A combination of laboratory, field and synchrotron X-ray experiments have led to the finding that metal-tolerant populations of super earthworms are evolving," said Mark Hodson of the University of Reading.

Since earthworms consume up to thirty times their weight each day, the evolved super worms may be able to perform amazing toxic cleanup feats.

SF fans are unsurprised by this development, having had their consciousnesses expanded by the original Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark (first aired 09-Mar-1967).

In the course of the episode, the Enterprise crew discovers the existence of the horta, a cheerful race of tunneling creatures who are happy to assist Federation entrepreneurs looking for precious metals. The horta make their own tunnels, eating their way through the planet's interior.


(The song of the Horta - no, really)

Perhaps a closer match would be Larry Niven's mining worms, which eat their way through ore and then leave metal droppings. Which makes me wonder if these earthworms are supposed to absorb the toxic metals into their bodies, in which case you're going to be left with a toxic worm disposal problem. But at least you've got more of the metals in one place than you did before.

If you enjoy this heartwarming tale of Earth's creatures coming to our aid, you'll certainly enjoy this previous story - Tumblin' Tumbleweeds Lend Hand In Depleted Uranium Roundup.

From New 'super worms' may clean up heavy metals; thanks to Moira for the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/16/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?' - Niven, Pournelle, Flynn, 1995.

Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!' -

Worms Eat Plastic Now
'Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased...' - Davis/Pedlar, 1971.

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.

Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'

NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.

Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'

SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'

Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'

Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'

Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.

Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?

Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.