Wordsmith.org: Today's Word

Commentary, news, new ideas, links, quote of the day and much more

Today's Quote:

Friday, June 06, 2008


Bats Eat Dirt to Stay Healthy

Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
LiveScience.comWed Jun 4, 9:10 AM ET

The strange act of eating dirt - known as "geophagy" - is actually common in the animal kingdom. Not only do our closest living relatives the chimpanzees do it - in order to help fight malaria - but so occasionally do humans all over the world.

Researchers suspect geophagy could help animals get key minerals they need for nutrition, much as they might from a salt lick. But hitting the dirt might also help them fight off poisons.

Chemical combat

When eating, people cut the green off potatoes because it is bad for you. Many fruits, leaves and things animals munch on naturally contain molecules that are toxic or could trigger cancer or birth defects. The minerals in the dirt animals eat could bind to electrically charged portions of the poisonous compounds and neutralize them.

Each night, tropical fruit-eating bats devour large amounts of such poisonous chemicals with their food. These molecules could prove especially dangerous to young bats, both those as yet unborn and ones still nursing from their mothers.

To see why bats might eat dirt, a team of researchers spent a month lurking around six mineral licks in the Amazonian rainforest at night.

"It is quite astonishing to see all the paths that lead to the mineral licks that were created by generations of tapirs and wild pigs," said researcher Christian Voigt, a behavioral ecologist at the Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany. "Indians hunted at these sites as well. Mineral licks are hot spots of mammalian activity."

The scientists captured bats with nets, briefly took some tissue samples, and released the creatures. They also sampled the clay they ate and the mineral-rich water they drank.

"At first glance it seemed that bats visit these sites for the same purpose as other animals such as large tapirs or birds - that is, to meet their daily mineral requirements," Voigt said.


But the researchers found the bats that stopped most often at mineral licks were fruit-eaters, not insect-eaters. And fruits are rich in minerals already.

Instead, Voigt and his colleagues suspect the bats eat dirt to detoxify themselves. The bats that stop at mineral licks are often pregnant or nursing mothers, so this geophagy may help them protect their young.

"Bats are doing the same as humans, especially Indian tribes in the Amazon," Voigt explained. Some tribes are known to eat dirt while pregnant or nursing. "Somehow the bats have found the same solution for the problem of toxic compounds in fruits."

The scientists now hope to investigate how specifically the minerals work, research that could lead to novel therapies.

"It is astonishing that eating mud is so widespread in mammals," Voigt told LiveScience. "Possibly, we should reconsider our assumptions regarding clay consumption. Maybe it is good stuff."

Voigt and his colleagues detailed their findings online on April 23 in the journal PLoS ONE.

Video: How Bats Fly Video: Smoking Out Secrets of Bat Flight Bat's Wrinkly Face Improves Sonar Original Story: Bats Eat Dirt to Stay Healthy

Visit LiveScience.com for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Science, Animal and Dinosaur Pictures, Science Videos, Hot Topics, Trivia, Top 10s, Voting, Amazing Images, Reader Favorites, and more. Get cool gadgets at the new LiveScience Store, sign up for our free daily email newsletter and check out our RSS feeds today!

Note: My grandmother used to say a baby needed to eat a peck of dirt to start life well. I guess she knew much more than I knew! She was from Poland and had visions which were later coaberated. A wise woman. Cockroaches and earthworms eat dirt, too. There are many micro-nutients in soil.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Bush seeks $770M in food help during crisis

Kareem Elgazzar

Issue date: 6/2/08 Section: News

As part of a broader $70 billion Iraq war funding measure for 2009, the Bush administration has added an aid package encouraging the use of genetically modified crops for the world's disadvantaged populations.

The Bush administration is seeking congressional approval of a $770 million food package in an effort to ease the world food crisis. If approved, the U.S. Agency for International Development would spend $150 million on development farming, which would include the use of genetically modified crops.

Genetically modified crops are produced from crops whose genetic makeup have been altered through a process called recombinant DNA, or gene splicing, to give the plant a desirable trait, according to a 2003 report in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's FDA Consumer.

Using the tools of genetic engineering allows the transfer of useful genes from one organism to a totally unrelated organism. Plants can be used, for example, to produce human proteins, such as insulin and antibodies, according to "Plants and Society," a textbook co-authored by Estelle Levetin and Karen McMahon.

"The building blocks for DNA and proteins are largely universal across organisms," said Susan Dunford, associate professor of biological sciences and instructor of a plants and people course. "As with any technology, the potential benefits, which are considerable, need to be weighed against the potential risks."

As the value or detriment of genetically modified, or bioengineered, food is ambiguous to researchers in the U.S. and Europe, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has done little research or development into the issue.

© 2008 The News Record

Poor farmers world wide can't take advantage of genetically modified crops since the modifications are meant to save time and man-power ONLY in large agri-businesses. In addition, the seeds produced by GM crops are engineered to prevent normal reproduction of the plant. That means that today's poor farmer using GM crops will have to BUY seed for next year's crops instead of simply harvesting seed as is done normally. Including GM crops in any package of food aid is like sending in a Trojan Horse filled with future hunger and/or dependence on the supplier of the GM seed (most likely, Monsanto) to those markets not currently under the control of the GM crop patent holder. Instead of helping people, the addition of a GM crops provision will actually harm them! It's time for Congress to take a long hard look at future damages that could result from this sneaky maneuver.

About Me

My photo
I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

Blog Archive