Sunday, January 15, 2012

Future of Human Species: Hybrid Plant:Animal?

The small animal in the photograph is Mesodinium chamaeleon, a ciliate that incorporates algae into itself to become a hybrid plant :: animal, capable of producing its own food.
M. chamaeleon is a ciliate – a kind of single-celled animal covered in hundreds of tiny "hairs" called cilia. It was discovered in Nivå bay in Denmark by Øjvind Moestrup of the University of Copenhagen, also in Denmark, and his team. Other specimens have since been found off the coasts of Finland and Rhode Island.

Ciliates using their hair-like cilia to motor around rapidly in water. Most get their food by eating other organisms, rather than by synthesising the nutrients themselves. This marks them as quite animal-like.

Some Mesodinium species are different, though. They engulf other microorganisms, generally algae called cryptomonads. The two then form a partnership: the algae produce sugars by photosynthesis, while the Mesodinium protects them and carries them around.

Such hybrid organisms are animals and plants at the same time. _NewScientist
Imagine green or blue-skinned humans who carry the machinery of photosynthesis with them wherever they go? Constantly fueled by glucose whenever the sun is shining or when under UV light, these humans never need to go hungry, or to carry bulky food rations with them on a trek. Their photosynthetic bio-machines could even be programmed to produce proteins, essential fats, and other nutrients.

What would happen to the human digestive apparatus, should human skin be given the function of nourishing the organism? Best not to do away with it altogether, since humans appreciate the sense of taste, and enjoy the social lubrication of eating and drinking together.

It is a simple modification, but one with enormous ramifications, should it prove easy to do on a large scale. Growing functional gills for breathing underwater is likely to be more difficult to achieve. But don't despair. Al Fin evolutionary engineers are working on the problem as we speak.

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