Questions and Answers about BIOLOGY

by Ken Miller and Joe Levine

QUESTION: If you have a closed freezer and let's says you were out on vacation for 3 days and the power went off through out those 3 days. Then, when you come back from your vacation you open your (CLOSED) freezer and there are Maggots formed in the meat!!  How are they formed? Is it from a bacteria in the meat?... from Xasha, a student in Puerto Rico.

This is an easy one.  Maggots are the larval forms of flies, and these larvae hatch from eggs laid by the flies.  The eggs laid by flies (including fruit flies and house flies) are so small that they usually cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Maggots do NOT arise from bacteria or any other contamination in meat.

   What this means is that at some point flies had enough contact with the surface of the meat to lay a few eggs on it.  It wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds to lay dozens of eggs.  The eggs would not have been visible unless the meat was examined by an expert using a high power magnifying glass. 

The development of the eggs into larvae (maggots) would be slowed down by refrigerating the meat and stopped altogether by freezing.  But they would not be killed.

  When the power to the freezer went off, the meat warmed and the development of the eggs resumed.  You opened the door and presto, there they were, in all their maggoty glory!

   Make sense?.

Ken Miller (9/19/04)

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