The Autotrophs began to drool!

The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom that follows the misadventures of 4 nerdy scientists (3 PhD prepared scientists and one lonely masters prepared scientist.  That reference will make more sense if you watch the show) and their aspiring actress neighbour.  The point of this blog post is to speak to the intro song, preformed by Canada’s own Bare Naked Ladies, which much to my surprise is the topic of much debate on the internets.

Here is the intro as it appears on the show

And for those interested here is the full version of the song

The line in question that seems to receive so much attention is “the autotrophs began to drool”

So what is with all of the “controversy”?

To understand what all of the “controversy” is about, we must 1st familiarize ourselves with the underlying core concepts.

Autotrophs, create their own food through the process of photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is the process in which carbon dioxide and water are converted into useful organic compounds (such as sugars) using sunlight.  Autotrophs where some of the 1st species on the planet and helped to shape the early earth ecosystem (alliteration anyone!  Wait I did it again!).  The 1st autotrophs are also responsible for setting in motion many of the ecological processes that are in place to this very day.  Heterotrophs, on the other hand, are organisms that are unable to create their own food (by the process of photosynthesis).  Instead, heterotrophs must consume an external food source in order to fuel internal processes and provide energy to the organism (for those of you wondering, humans are heterotrophs!).  Drooling is an automatic response in many, but not all, heterotrophs that facilitates the breakdown of organic materials (read as: food) into a form that can be utilized by animals.  More specifically, saliva (drool) contains digestive enzymes that assist in the initial digestion of food.

So with the above information in mind, you would think that the statement “the autotrophs began to drool” would be incorrect.  I mean if autotrophs make their own food, how, and more importantly why, would an autotroph drool!?

That, dear reader, is an excellent question!

We need to focus on the word “began”.  The song is referring to the period of time, hundreds of millions of years ago, when specific autotrophs began to evolve.  It is during this time period that we see the 1st autotrophs evolving into what would eventually become the 1st heterotrophs.  Despite what some creationists might tell you, modern plants and modern animals share a common ancestor.  “The Big Bang Theory” intro is paying tribute to the specific line of autotrophs that branched off and evolved into the 1st heterotrophs.  Now it should be noted that the 1st heterotrophs would not have drooled, as they would not have even had what we would describe as a mouth to drool from, but seeing as we have a modern/popular/hit show promoting evolution and science, I think that we can let that slide!

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

*update: Jan 23/2012- check out Part 2 of this post here:


36 Responses to “The Autotrophs began to drool!”

  1. David McCartney Says:

    I liked this comment but think that perhaps the early heterothrophs did utilize exudates (drool) in the acquizition of nutrients. Venus flytraps, sundews and such sort of drool also. Autotrophs with root systems have root exudates that function as “drool” given a bit of definitional flexibility. See

  2. Thanks, Skeptical. Quite informative.

  3. This exegesis has reason. However it would be more convincing if the line were “some autotrophs began to drool” rather than “the autotrophs” began to drool. But without such confusing lines in revered text there would be no religion, so I am all for the inevitable schism this blog post will engender.

    • thewonderofitalll Says:

      ……and if that danged comet had not given an insignificant mammal 10 million years of unopposed evolution,where would we be now,eh???

  4. I found this via google, and while I can understand your reasoning, it’s my understanding that heterotrophs predate autotrophs. In the primordial soup there were plenty of chemicals to “eat” so there was no need for anything to produce its own food. At some point autotrophs like chloroplasts evolved. Even then autotrophs generally evolved from heterotrophs, not the other way around. There’s a reason why there are heterotrophic bacteria without mitochondria, then eukaryotic cells with mitochondria, without chloroplasts, then finally cells with mitochondria and chloroplasts – plant cells seem to evolved from heterotrophic cells, not the other way around.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Excellent post!

      Thanks for contributing to the blog!
      I would be very interested to hear more about your background so that I could gain some insight into how you came to the information contained within your blog post.

      Let me attempt to clarify my answer.

      The theme song to “The Big Bang Theory” is far from a peer reviewed article on the origin of life/evolution of life. It fails to identify manner of the subtle details regarding life on planet earth. But let us be honest, how many people are going enjoy a song that listens like a dictated version of a science article inside of a catchy pop song!? I am sure not as many. However, for what it is, I would argue that the song does do a decent job of getting things more or less right.

      It is my understanding that the prokaryotes were the 1st life forms on earth. It was also my understanding that the 1st prokaryotes (or maybe better worded as the ancestors of modern day prokaryotes) where chemoautotrophs and that all other life forms evolved from this particular life form. From these chemoautotrophs, came heterotrophic prokaryotes, so it is my understanding that the autotrophs did come before the heterotrophs (hence the line the autotrophs began to drool). This then leads to the split between bacteria and archaea, which gives way to the eventual evolution/development of what would eventually be known as photosynthesis. Photosynthesis, then allowed for the evolution/development of increasingly larger heterotrophic species.
      The theme song is a bit simplified in its assertion that the “autotrophs began to drool”. Technically, the autotrophs (specifically the prokaryote chemoautotrophs) gave way to heterotrophic prokaryotes which would not have had anything resembling a mouth or salivary glands.

      My interpretation of the song is the tip of the hat to the original autotrophic prokaryotes that paved the way for more evolved autotrophs (and also prokaryotic heterotrophs) which eventually paved the way for a more common/classic heterotrophs (specifically some form of a creature with a mouth and digestive glands).

      • Unfortunately I don’t have an article or anything to cite, but I’m still pretty sure chemoheterotrophs were before chemoautotrophs, and I can demonstrate it with relatively simple logic. When life is starting out if you have a prokaryote, it still has to has processes to bring in new materials (raw materials), it has to be able to process more complex compounds to just run basic life processes (digestion), and it has to excrete waste. If the autotrophs were really there first, they have to have one more process to harness chemical energy in order to make more complex molecules. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, particularly when you consider that where life began there were all sorts of organic compounds just waiting to be “eaten.” Basically you’d have to have a heterotroph and then give it an extra process to make it an autotroph.

      • theskepticalsamurai Says:

        After much research…

        As best I can tell you are correct! Although I am finding conflicting information, the general consensus (amongst the scientific community) seems to be that chemoheterotrophs did in fact exist before chemoautotrophs (although there does still seem to be some that believe and have evidence to support the fact that chemoautotrophs came first)

        My mistake!

        So looks like me might have to petition the Bare Naked Ladies and the powers that be over at the “Big Bang Theory” to get on it and make some changes! Specifically, the heterotrophs began to “self produce” (or maybe something much more witty/catchy then that! Haha). I mean the show claims to be about science and nerd culture and they cannot even get this one thing right (I am only kidding! Just a lighthearted jab at the power that be is all, I remain a big fan of this show!)

        Looks like I will have to re-write this blog post…

        Scratch that, I will keep it up but write a “Part 2” instead. I think that this exchange is a perfect example of why blogs (and the scientific process) are so great. It encourages open discussion, not to see who is right, but instead to consider all of the available information and arrive at some sort of answer.

        Thanks for contributing to the blog! Please keep reading and please keep contributing! Look forward to hearing from you again!

  5. Ernie Gilman Says:

    Pardon me if I drop into channeling Sheldon here. I might.

    No, we must first realize that when we write it is helpful to emulate writing we’ve seen for all of our lives up to now, where writers do not write “1st” but instead spell out the word. “1st” is useful on ribbons and trophies, but is not a word. 1st, over and over in a text such as this, is atrocious and shows that while you might have read a lot, you did not notice very much.

    You write “Autotrophs, create their own….” That comma is misplaced. Imagine writing “I, am here. Dogs, eat dog biscuits.” That second sentence would be correct if it were a command to some dogs to eat dog food, and could equally well be rendered “Dogs: eat dog biscuits.”

    You would be surprised to realize that creationists do indeed believe that plants and animals share a common ancestor: they believe that they derived directly from the Hand of God.

    “Working to serve…” should have a fourth period. Three periods constitute a dieresis, and three periods are correct within a sentence. But if one is going to end a sentence with a dieresis or even propose that a gerundial phrase by itself might be punctuated as a sentence, that “sentence” must end with four periods; that is, the dieresis proper followed by a period to denote the end of the sentence.

    Aside from a few grammatical details, otherwise nicely done. But the song was performed, not preformed as written in the first paragraph.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:


      Excuse the tardiness of my reply. Things have been mightly busy on the Skeptical Samurai front as of late.

      Interesting comments. Due to the negative tone of your post, I actually considered just deleting your comment altogether, but what fun would that be!?
      Your comments do not come across as helpful at all. Instead of starting a discussion or contributing to the blog with additional information you simply come across as a condescending and rude know-it-all.

      I will be the 1st to admit that I am far from an English major, but I do my best to ensure my blog entries are as readable as possible. For the most part I feel that I achieve that goal.

      Might I make a suggestion to you…

      In the future, if you wish to comment on my blog (or anyone’s blog for that manner) try approaching your post with a more positive outlook. If you have a criticism, please try voicing it in a constructive manner as this benefits all parties involved.


  6. Didn’t heterotrophs come before autotrophs in the first place?

    In the primordial soup there were plenty of organic compounds to consume prior to life even existing, and certainly they were there prior to life creating a way to synthesize its own chemicals.

    Furthermore, if we treat the chloroplast as the first autotroph (or at least a representative of it), it clearly never evolved into a heterotroph. Even on that later level, heterotrophs become autotrophs, not the other way around.

    It doesn’t help explain the song, but there you have it.

  7. Ernie Gilman Says:

    You are indeed right that i sound like a negative know-it-all. And thanks for the suggestion.

    I notice that you wrote 1st again. Would you have taken my advice if I had, overall, showed a more positive attitude? I hope so!

    This next bit always looks like it’s going to explode in my face, even though it’s really instructive and in fact a good deal of fun. Here goes —
    It’s actually reasonable not to criticize some sites for not being the best, or the slickest, or whatever. These are personal sites, vanity sites… and since that bit of advice is over ten years old, it probably fits blogs, too. That advice is given at a wonderful site to peruse, called (reading that is the moment when this can blow up). They have great advice about websites and can, in fact, tell you quite clearly what’s bothering you about some sites you don’t like to visit.

    Keep on as you are; it’s a fun world and I was overstepping to be so negative about the issues I saw. So, I cheerfully say, I still see them, and best of luck.


    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      I used 1st (instead of first) intentionally (yet again).

      If you would have given my some sort of construction criticism regarding why I should not use it, or how it negatively affected my blog, I would have most certainly taken it into consideration and possibly changed my use of 1st/first.
      I choose to use 1st (versus first) simply because I like the way it looks. Nothing more and nothing less. I know that it is not the “correct” use of 1st, but I choose to use it anyway.

      Thanks for your response, it was a lot more constructive and actually accomplished the goal of contributing something to the blog, versus simply sounding like a rant from a self proclaimed know it all. For that I thank you good sir!

      • thewonderofitalll Says:

        I dont know if my posts are being recieved, but ,at the risk of being rude, the digression on grammer etc is a tiresome distraction from the really interesting thread that could be picked up about Life’s 1st origins .
        I once heard a scientist say that the essence of all life is electricity, the flow of electric charge? This is where biology and physics meld?
        And ,of course, the symmetry,asymmytry and now super-symmetry theoretical postulations of physicists working on the LDH collider. Experimental proof. God is terminal.

      • theskepticalsamurai Says:


        Your messages are getting through; it is just taking me a bit of time to respond is all! I am still in the process of researching your initial post so that I can give an informed response! But don’t worry! A response is most definitely on the way!

        Regarding the impromptu grammar discussion, I could not agree more! Sorry about the distraction from the actual content of the blog. Sadly, in the blogosphere sometimes things devolve into discussions that have nothing to do with the actual topic at hand (and in this case contributors/reader can get surprisingly quite negative). The matter has been dealt with! Sorry for the distraction!

        …and glad you are enjoying the blog! You keep reading ‘em and I will keep writing ‘em!

  8. thewonderofitalll Says:

    According to a recent BBC programme [cant remember name] on Drakes Formula[who went on to set up SETI] for the likelihood of life, and then intelligent life , evolving in our Universe, the first big hurdle was the leap from single cellular to multicellular organisms. The scientists seemed fairly comfortable with the idea of single cellular forms existing [[they didnt elaborate re auto/heterotrophs]
    I seem to remember plant life exploded around 650 mya [the Carboniferous period?] and thus extracted co and emitted O2.]
    I find it amazing that unthinking molecules can form unthinking DNA, develop and enwrap itself into trillions of cells around a tube[ gastrointestinal system], become us ,whose only true meaning [in my view only] is to replicate ourselves and thus the unthinking DNA


    enjoying the blog

  9. Ernie Gilman Says:

    Well, I gave you two chances to notice how my first reply started, but you did not seem to have caught it either time:
    Pardon me if I drop into channeling Sheldon here. I might.

    Now, reading that and thinking about what it means, then rereading my first post, doesn’t it all make sense? Another Sheldonesque comment might be, well, did you ever watch the show?

    As regards 1st versus first, the exact reason that do(es) not comment on such usages in what they call “vanity” sites is that owners of such sites do not see a need to represent the best of the English language; this “best” can be found on the average cereal box. I’m glad you like 1st but it looks terribly amateurish to me. By the way, wood u wrt lk this Bcuz it’s simpler? 1st and that kind of spelling are both on the same scale, just at different places. If that’s the scale you’re on, well, okay!


    • theskepticalsamurai Says:


      The point of the blog is Skepticism.

      The point of that particular blog post was to take a skeptical look at the theme song to “The Big Bang Theory”.

      The purpose of the blog IS NOT grammar

      I humored your comments at 1st (notice the intentional use of 1st vs. first) by responding to your reply. It was my hope that being polite and positive would have some sort of beneficial result (such as placating your need to criticize inconsequential grammatical minutia); it is obvious that it has not.

      I am who I am and I will continue to write in the manner that I write. This blog isn’t published as part of a medical or university journal/periodical and is therefore not subject to the same stringent rules of grammatical examination. This is a blog that I do in my (limited) free time and I do it for my personal enjoyment and development.

      Again, if you have some constructive criticism regarding the subject material or manner in which I manage my blog I would be happy to hear it, otherwise please keep it to yourself. The purpose of the blog is to promote skepticism and promote discussion. This has devolved into an argument about grammar, an argument I am just not interested in having past this post. Good day to you sir!

  10. Ernie Gilman Says:

    I really think that I was being skeptical about the effectiveness of your grammar.

    Your stance on your idiosyncrasies is well supported; over at, they don’t want to bother with “(personal pages [that] are supposed to reflect the individual’s personality and artistic freedom).”

    So keep livin’, brother!

  11. joe caputi Says:

    1st-ly, Ernie Gilman is hilarious! I caught the Sheldonesque tone half way through a rereading of his first post. He got it right.
    Next: You, dear theskepticalsamurai, have done a great service for the fans of the show. Tear apart a song or poem or novel and it helps explain the author’s intent or state of mind, etc. In your blog we readers had to google a few science facts here and there or we would lose the thread. You made us smarter.
    and C- I have the courage to actually post this because “I’m HAMMERED!”

  12. ya’ll (how is that for the queen’s english?) need to get a life.
    how about we consider the lyrics to “The Family Guy”
    However i did read all the blogs and it was funny, more than the sitcom

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:


      thanks for the comment/support! haha
      That one actually made me laugh out loud! haha

      glad that you are enjoying the blog. You keep reading them and i will keep writing them!

  13. Let it slide?
    No zarking way.
    My inner Sheldon recoils at the thought.
    Autotrophs do not drool. Not basal autotrophs. Not derived autotrophs. Even the post makes it clear that basal heterotrophs probably did not drool, either (they were just really good at sucking, like Opabinia and its hoover-like feeding appendage) which reinforces the point.

    Autotrophs do not drool. Those who think so are knuckle-walkers. Or worse, Canadian or Australian.
    (Kaley >> Yvonne)

    If you do not see why this is important
    Then you probably don’t have asperger syndrome
    In which case
    You unbellyfeel Big Bang and Sheldon’s apotheosis.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      This knuckle walking Canadian would like to take a moment to say…
      Thanks for reading the blog!

      I am not arguing that Autotrophs drool.
      I was attempting to explain the sentiment behind the statement “the autotrophs began to drool”.

  14. George Ivey Says:

    On correction: you say “3 PhD prepared scientists and one lonely masters prepared scientist. ”

    Howard, the one without a Ph.D., is an engineer, not a scientist. I mention that because it is much less common for engineers to get a Ph.D. Although if an engineer to going to teach at a university, yes, in that case, he would be more likely to have a Ph.D.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Thanks for the reply!

      It is my understanding that engineering is a branch of science.
      Howard is works as an Engineer…so would that not make him a scientist? Maybe not a scientist in the purest sense of the world but still a scientist.

  15. thewonderofitalll Says:

    What is the molecule that appears in the pauses? is it Carbon, the backbone of all life –as we know it!!!

  16. Says:

    So where did God come into this did he not build the world after he had finnished gardening ???? May i add i love theories and dont believe what i read in books unless they are autobiographies.

  17. Mallory Says:

    Your blog was very enlightening. I didn’t stop to think about it from the aspect that the autotrophs were evolving into heterotrophs. My only criticism is that not all autotrophs created their food through photosynthesis. They also used chemosythesis and lithosynthesis.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      If there is one thing that i have learned from this blog post…it is that biology and the process of evolution is an extremely complex process!

      thanks for reading and i hope that you continue to enjoy the blog

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