Microbial Genomics: polystyrene-digesting worms discovered
Scientists at the Australian University of Queensland have discovered worms that can process plastic by eating it. In a study published in the journal Microbial Genomics, scientists noticed that the larvae of Zophobas morio beetles contain special enzymes in their intestines that digest polystyrene.
Polystyrene is a common type of plastic used for packaging, disposable cutlery and CD boxes. Recycling such material is quite difficult, so most often it ends up in landfills and oceans, where it harms local ecosystems.
For three weeks, the researchers maintained different diets in large worms, which are bred as food for reptiles and birds. The first group was fed with Styrofoam, the other with bran, and the third was given nothing. Observations have shown that these larvae can only eat plastic and can even gain weight on such a diet, which indicates the ability to receive nutrients from polystyrene, while decomposing harmful compounds.