SCIENTISTS ACCIDENTALLY(अकस्मात) DISCOVER CATERPILLARS THAT CAN EAT PLASTIC
Federica Bertocchini, a researcher who studies chicken embryos in Spain, is a beekeeper in her spare time. She was cleaning some old beehives recently and found they were infested (पीड़ित) with waxworms. The creatures are a pest for those who keep bees: The larvae chew through hives before eventually hatching (रेखाछाया) into moths. “In cleaning the beehives, I put the worms in a plastic bag, and after a short while they were all around and the plastic bag was full of holes,” says Bertocchini, who works at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria. Very few organisms are known to break down plastic, and when she realized the import of this accidental find, “We started moving right away.”
She contacted collaborators Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge, who study plastic biodegradation. To their surprise, they found that the waxworms are capable of breaking down polyethylene, one of the most prevalent plastics used in the world—accounting for 40 percent of the overall demand.