Animals Designed to Clean Up Biological Waste

Animals Designed to Clean Up Biological Waste - Lammergeier or bearded vulture

One of the fascinating areas of scientific investigation is studying animals designed to clean up biological waste. This is especially true in mountainous regions where dry conditions and harsh terrain do not allow normal organic decomposition.

The lammergeier or bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is an example of such an animal. This large bird lives in scattered mountainous areas in Europe and Africa and across Asia, including Siberia and the Himalayas. It has a wingspan of ten feet (three meters). The main item on its menu is bones.

The World Atlas of Birds reports that this bird picks up the bones of animals that have died naturally or been killed by predators and carries them to high elevations. It then drops the bones onto the ground to smash them into smaller pieces. Lammergeiers do not eat just the bone marrow. They actually swallow large pieces of bone. To do this, they have an extremely elastic esophagus. Their stomach has a group of cells that secrete a highly concentrated acid, which is stronger than battery acid. It is strong enough to dissolve the calcium in the bones to liberate the protein and the fat. Amazingly the bird’s digestive enzymes are specially designed to survive a highly acidic environment and continue to function.

We need animals designed to clean up biological waste. Many animals are designed to survive in environments that are inhospitable to life. With special adaptations built into their bodies, they can do quite well. Trying to find ways that any one of these designs could occur by chance is challenging. Seeing designs in birds that require a large number of things to be changed simultaneously is an even greater challenge. Birds such as lammergeiers, woodpeckers, and penguins are great examples of the creative abilities of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020