Sunday, 9 March 2008

Small world

In a triumph for Darwinian evolution, Japanese scientists have discovered an entirely new species of bacteria which lives only in hairspray. It's too early to say if it poses a threat to human health, but they are already working on ways to combat its spread.

A tough one for the Creationists, this. Did God create the hairspray-dwelling bacteria at the beginning of time, in readiness for the invention of hairspray? And if so, what were they doing in the meantime?

For the rest of us, the story demonstrates once again just how amazingly flexible and unconquerable the bacterial world is. It took them a few decades, but the microbes are on the point of breaching our once formidable anti-biotic defences. They can survive in volcanoes and under kilometres of antarctic ice. They will scarcely even notice global warming. No doubt they are already busy colonising outer space, as scraps of biological material swirl around among the debris of rocket parts and discarded satellites.

Sometimes it takes a microscopic lifeform to make us feel small.

2 comments:

andrewc said...

Interesting stuff. Correct me if I'm wrong though, but neither your linked article nor the abstract of the paper itself state that the bacterium lives only in hairspray.

The Heresiarch said...

Quite possibly you're right. But it's (1) a new species and (2) was discovered in hairspray. Presumably if it lived in other environments they would have found it somewhere else first. My reading of the situation (and I could be wrong) is that the bacterium has some specific adaptation to enable it to live in hairspray. If so, it must have evolved in hairspray: it would hardly have evolved a hairspray-adaptation in some non-hairspray type environment. But I'm not a biologist.