Scientists have found caterpillars that eat plastic bags

Scientists have found caterpillars that eat plastic bags

MOSCOW, 24 APR — RIA Novosti. Scientists have found that caterpillars of the great wax moth is capable of decomposing plastic bags. The results of their research were published in the journal Current Biology.

“This discovery may help to get rid of the huge amount of debris that accumulates in landfills and in the ocean,” said AFP one of the authors of the study, Professor at the University of Cambridge Paolo Bombelli. Polyethylene is a serious problem for the environment as it is very slowly decomposed under natural conditions.

The discovery was made almost by accident. One of the study’s authors biologist Federica, Bertaccini, interested in beekeeping, once found in the hive of larvae big wax moth butterfly pest, known by the Latin name Galleria mellonella.

Bertaccini collected caterpillars in a plastic bag, but after some time found that he gnawed through, and the caterpillars spread to her house

Bertaccini, together with colleagues from the University of Cambridge conducted a full experiment by placing several hundred caterpillars in a plastic bag from the supermarket. After 40 minutes, the scientists found the first hole, and after 12 hours the caterpillars have eaten has 92 milligrams of polyethylene. This is significantly higher than the amount of the substance that was at the same time decomposed by bacteria or fungus, the article says.

The following experiments showed that caterpillars are able to completely digest the polyethylene

Decomposition of polyethylene has been achieved by placing on the surface of crushed caterpillars. This led the scientists to suggest that such action causes a special enzyme produced by glands or caterpillars, or bacterial symbionts in their digestive system.

The caterpillars of this species of moth feed on the wax that, on the assumption of researchers, and helped them to develop the ability to recycle polyethylene. Later, scientists hope to isolate it the substance that produces the desired action, and then to synthesize it artificially.

It is hardly possible to breed millions of the caterpillars on acetopiperone Bartoccini, one of the study’s authors