Australian scientists have discovered superworms that can eat polystyrene. These creatures can help the planet

(ORDO NEWS) — Polystyrene-eating superworms could be a useful tool for tackling Earth‘s plastic pollution. All thanks to a bacterial enzyme in their gut.

These Super Worms Like Plastic Even More Than Regular Food

In a new study published in the journal Microbial Genomics , Australian scientists have found that Zophobas morio superworms are able to eat polystyrene without health effects thanks to a bacterial enzyme in their gut.

What’s more, the scientists found that superworms that ate only polystyrene even gained a little weight. This indicates that they are likely to be able to survive on a “plastic diet” without difficulty.

Why are they called superworms?

Superworms are not exactly worms, but the larvae of Zophobas morio beetles. It takes about five months before they turn into real beetles.

They are much larger than other insect larvae of the same insect family, giving them the title of “superworms”.

Attention to enzymes

To better understand how worms manage to eat plastic, scientists have sequenced the DNA of microbes living in their intestines.

Researchers have identified bacterial genes that code for plastic-degrading enzymes. The team believes this knowledge could be used in the near future to look for other bacteria that code for similar plastic-degrading enzymes in their genome.

The researchers want to grow gut bacteria in the lab and further test their ability to degrade polystyrene. This approach could eventually lead to the creation of an “enzymatic cocktail” capable of degrading plastic.

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