Life provides

This simple mould led to the development of antibiotics

Figures vary, but many scientists estimate that there are in the region of 5 million different species alive on our planet today. Life is everywhere. Evolution has seen to that. Wherever there is a living to be made, some species or other has adapted to fill this niche and thrive. Life can be strange and beautiful, full of wonderful adaptations and ornamentations.

Humans have developed an intricate relationship with life, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the fuel we use. Evolution has provided life on this planet with a myriad of adaptations and tools to help it survive. Humans driven by curiosity, are forever seeking ways to make our lives easier, safer and more comfortable have taken inspiration from the natural world.

Take for example Velcro, the mechanical based fastening device that has found numerous uses in our daily lives. Velcro’s Swiss inventor went for a walk in the woods and came out covered with sticky, hard to remove seeds, and so the hook and loop mechanism of Velcro was born.

Of course, the lengthy lives we enjoy today are in part due to a better understanding of food and diet. However, it is perhaps a combination of the humble antibiotic and vaccinations that have helped eradicate life threatening diseases and allowed us to enjoy longer, healthier lives. The simple blue green mould that grows on oranges has led to the development of penicillin, one of the first effective antibiotics. Likewise, Edward Jenner’s observations that milkmaids who had cowpox didn’t develop smallpox subsequently led to the development the smallpox vaccination and ultimately the eradication of the smallpox disease in 1979. By that stage many millions had died from it, including hundreds of millions in the 20th century alone.

Of all the species that ever lived on our planet, approximately only 1% are alive today. The other 99% have become extinct. Imagine the secrets that have gone with them.

The inspiration for Velcro can be found in this sticky seed

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