Microplastics found in stomachs of deep sea creatures – study

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Plastic has been found in the stomachs of the deepest marine organisms known to exist, according to a scientific study.

The findings in the Royal Society Open Science paper “illustrates that microplastic contaminants occur in the very deepest reaches of the oceans”.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle detected the presence of ingested microplastics in the guts of creatures called Lysianassoidea amphipods.

The organisms were located in six deep ocean trenches from around the Pacific Rim, including Japan and Peru-Chile, at depths ranging from 7,000m (22,966ft) to 10,890m (35,728ft).

This is a strong indication that there are likely no areas left in the oceans that are not contaminated by plastic pollution in some form.

More than 72% of the creatures examined contained at least one microparticle, the study found.

Plastic pollution is having a detrimental effect on the world’s marine organisms, with an estimated 322 million tonnes of plastic produced annually.

More than five trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tonnes are currently floating on the sea’s surface.

While the majority of plastic present in the oceans are floating on the surface, studies such as this one show the degradation and fragmentation of plastics will sink to the underlying deep-sea habitats.

“Microplastics are of particular concern in marine environments because they may be similar or smaller in size to prey or particles selected for ingestion by marine organisms,” the study wrote.

“The size of microplastics makes them bioavailable, which facilitates entry into the food chain at various trophic levels and bioaccumulation.”

The study noted the extent of the adverse effects of plastic pollution on marine life is not fully understood, though it is known to negatively affect around 700 marine species, mainly through ingestion.

Despite living in remote habitats, the research team discovered plastic and synthetic fibres including nylon, polyethylene and polyvinyl alcohol inside most of the amphipods examined.

Since many deep-sea organisms, including amphipods, have evolved to ensure feeding success at rare opportunities, the likelihood of ingesting new foreign bodies is high.

Microplastics eaten by small prey species can have implications for the entire food chain since amphipods are food for fish and crustaceans that are consumed by predators including birds and humans.

“This study reports the deepest record of microplastic ingestion, indicating that anthropogenic debris is bioavailable to organisms at some of the deepest locations in the Earth’s oceans,” researchers wrote.

(c) Sky News 2019: Microplastics found in stomachs of deep sea creatures – study

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