Based on this question and answer about a human sized creature that lives completely on textiles, how feasible is it for a creature to consume nylon and polyester to derive fats/lipids useful for building cell walls? Whether the creature performs the transformation itself or special gut bacteria perform the transform is irrelevant to the question.

Assume an approximately human sized creature that requires between 1500 and 2000 calories per day. We have established that this creature can synthesize its own amino acids and vitamins, so it doesn't need to consume those from the textiles. Mineral consumption has been handwaved a bit because there just isn't much mineral content in the dyes and fabric of textiles.

Remember, this is a so equations, journal entries, or official sources are required in the answer.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why did you create a monsters tag for this question? Were creature-design and creature insufficient for some reason? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Fixed. Didn't think about the synonyms $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Must there be a direct conversion from nylon/polyester to fats? Are microbes that can live off polyester but do not do that specific conversion allowed? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 17, 2015 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Rather, are microbes that biodegrade these fabrics allowed? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 17, 2015 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Like termites, they'll probably need some help.

Termites have a gut bacteria that produce cellulase which helps them digest cellulose. Your cloth eating creature might need something similar, a bacteria that produces nylonase. Nylonase is an enzyme capable of biodegrading polyamides, like nylon, as discussed in this paper. Similarly, polyester eating fungi and polyester eating bacteria (paywall, sorry), use a polyurethanase–protease enzyme to biodegrade polyester.

Both groups of bacteria are anaerobic, so would prefer to live in a gut. With a nice community of these and similar bacteria in the gut, this creature has the opportunity to digest both nylon and polyester.

Nutrition is a bit harder to determine. We're not even sure how the metabolic pathways work inside a termite gut. But nylon and polyester, like cellulose, are high in energy and degrade back into sugars and fatty acids (or natural versions can be made from the same components by some quite different bacteria).

Given the energy content of polyester (6,214 kilocalories per kilogram), the creature would probably need to eat around a kilo every day, though that's a wild guess on digestion efficiency.


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