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 ")

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.' - Gregory Benford, 1983.

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

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

Michelin Self-Sealing Tires On Ford's Explorer
'...a seal of compressed plastifoam to save the air.'

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Juggalo Face Paint Disrupts Facial Recognition
'... designed to foil facial recognition systems.'

Mojipic Smart Voice Vehicle Emojis
KITT, what's your response?

Unusual Twist On Woman Dates Robot
'My hearing, vision and awareness went along with that excellent imitation of a young Adonis...'

BrainNet Triple Telepathic Gaming Threat
'In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling.'

AVAS Noisemakers Required For EVs By EU
'...a sound tape to supply the noise of a soi-disant "[internal combustion]" engine...'

Pun Generation Via Neural Nets
'You said you wanted him to be able to distinguish between laugh-power in different gags...'

Blood Battery Robotic Fish
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'

Lightyear One Solar-Powered Electric Car (Design By Heinlein)
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

'Agression Detectors' Don't Work When Spying On Students
'The professional agitators had also learned how to modulate their voices below the danger level...'

Mining Of Golden Asteroid Foretold In 1898 Science Fiction
'This must be a golden planet—this little asteroid.'

Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
'The borers had been dismantled and packed away.'

Bee+ Robobee Now With Four Wings
'It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length...'

CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder
'We could certainly spin a web right through the Solar System, if we can think of a good use for one.'

Starshade Will Help Space Telescope To Search For Exoplanets
'When it found planetary systems in its field, automatically shifted upon them a higher powered telespectroscope ...'

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.