There's good reason to save the whales: for their unique digestive machinery. In fact, A. Morrie Craig, a professor of veterinary medicine at Oregon State University, has discovered that the bacteria
in the forestomach of whales show an amazing ability to break down toxic substances. That's why whales can scarf down a ton of krill a day--polluted with oil, acids, and PCBs--without harm. If the bugs can be cultivated, says Craig, they could be a big help in cleaning up oil spills.
OSU researchers are already testing cattle feed laced with bacteria from the stomachs of sheep and goats. These bugs seem to detoxify the poison in tansy ragwort, a weed that kills $10 million worth of cattle in Oregon every year. Similar bacteria promise to turn the carcinogenic compounds in TNT into harmless chemicals. Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. is working on commercial products that exploit the bacteria.