“How microbes govern us”
In the AST released Russian translation of the book by British science journalist ed Yong “How microbes govern us”. It is devoted to microorganisms — the constant companions of all animals on Earth, including humans. Yong clearly shows how our lives depend on bacteria and other microbes that inhabit our body. They not only bring us harm, as many people think, but also protect our health and even give us important abilities. N + 1 offers its readers a fragment of a new Russian translation of the book Jong, who complied with our friends at popular science magazine “Batrahospermum”. In this snippet, explains how bacteria help animals to adapt to vegetable poisons.
Living beings, as a rule, don’t particularly want to eat them. They are protected. Animals have a choice — to fight or to flee. Plants are not as mobile, so they rely on chemical protection. Their tissues are filled with substances that make them undesirable for herbivorous animals — poisons that harm the health, deprived of the opportunity to have offspring, lead to weight loss or neurological disorders, provokes the appearance of tumors or miscarriages or simply kill them.
Creosote Bush is one of the most common plants in the deserts of the southwest USA. He achieved success thanks to its resistance to drought, aging and jaws of animals. Its leaves are covered with resin, which contains hundreds of chemicals, together constituting up to a quarter of the dry weight of shrub. This mixture exudes a sharp and memorable scent, which is especially felt when the leaves get wet in the rain. They say that the creosote smells like rain, but actually the rain smells like creosote.
Whatever it was, the smell of the resin is not harmful, but if swallowed, it damages the liver and kidneys. A lab rat, eating the leaves of the creosote Bush dies.
But with desert hamster, nothing happens. He still eats. And again. In the Mojave desert rodents like the leaves that in winter and spring, they mainly feed on them. Every day they eat up so much resin, that any other rodent would have long glued legs. How do they do it?
In animals, there are many ways to get around poisonous plants, but each method has its price. You can eat only the least poisonous part but the animal is choosy, the less the opportunity. To eat neutralizing substances, such as clay, but to find the antidote takes effort and time. It is possible to create a neutralizing enzymes, but it takes energy. Bacteria offer an alternative solution.
They are masters of biochemistry, able to break down anything from heavy metals to crude oil.
Poisons of plant origin? So easily! In 1970, scientists have suggested that microbes in the digestive tract to neutralize all poisons in your food before they get into the intestines. Due to the fact that microbes disarm meals in advance, animals do not have to think about antidotes. Ecologist Kevin Kohl suggested that their resistance desert hamster owes bacteria, and to test this theory he helped several millennia of climate change.