Can we grow bigger creatures by boosting how much oxygen they breath? Possibly, according to this post on Wired Science:
Biologists have grown super-size dragonflies that are 15 percent larger than normal by raising the insects, from start to finish, in chambers emulating Earth’s oxygen conditions 300 million years ago. The research, presented Nov. 1 at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, provides more support to the idea that big ancient animals and high-oxygen concentrations weren’t coincidental. It may also offer an instrument to help gauge Earth’s ancient atmospheric conditions.
“No one has been successful growing dragonflies under controlled laboratory conditions before, at least to my knowledge,” said paleobiologist John VandenBrooks of Arizona State University, leader of the work. “This has allowed us to ask the question, ‘how have oxygen levels through time influenced the evolution of insects?'”
During the Paleozoic era, around 300 million years ago, huge dragonflies zipped around with wingspans stretching more than two and a half feet, dwarfing modern relatives. Back then, however, the planet’s atmosphere had roughly 50 percent more oxygen than today. To explore the effects of ancient oxygen levels, VandenBrooks’ team raised 11 other “living fossils,” including beetles and cockroaches, in three habitats with different oxygen concentrations — one at the late Paleozoic’s 31 percent oxygen level, another at today’s 21 percent level and the third at 12 percent from 240 million years ago (Earth’s lowest oxygen level since complex life exploded onto the scene half a billion years ago). They found that dragonflies and beetles grew faster, as well as bigger, in a high-oxygen environment, while cockroaches grew slower and remained the same size. All but two bug species grew smaller than normal at low concentrations of oxygen.
Might this revolutionize the game animal supplement industry? Will food plots and mineral blocks become so 21st-century? Perhaps tomorrow’s trophy bucks will be grown in special hyperbaric chambers while being fed a highly concentrated, oxygen-rich diet, then released not into high-fence areas, but completely airtight, self-contained bio-dome habitats that replicate the Paleozoic atmospheric oxygen level. Sounds pretty outlandish, but then again thirty years ago much of how we routinely hunt today would have sounded equally outlandish…