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Microbes Thriving on Plastic Ocean Pollution


Science & Tech  (tags: research, environment, study, discovery, microbes, oceans, science, Pacific, garbage, garbage patch )

Michael
- 518 days ago - ecogeek.org
From the Great Pacific garbage patch to more disperse bits of trash, immense amounts of plastic and other garbage continue to amass in the ocean. However, some of that plastic pollution is harboring life.



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Comments

Michael O. (175)
Saturday July 20, 2013, 8:10 am
By Sarah Rich

Scientists have discovered colonies of microbes thriving on tiny fragments of plastic floating in the open ocean. The team of scientists studying these new ocean habitats--called the "plastisphere"--collected marine plastic debris using fine-scale nets at locations in the North Atlantic Ocean. They discovered at least 1000 kinds of bacterial cells, forming a variety of complex microscopic communities.

Many microbial species on the debris samples remain unidentified, and identifying the microbes present isn't the only task at hand. As Science Daily reports, scientist Linda Amaral-Zettler says, "We're not just interested in who's there. We're interested in their function, how they're functioning in this ecosystem, how they're altering this ecosystem, and what's the ultimate fate of these particles in the ocean ... Are they sinking to the bottom of the ocean? Are they being ingested? If they're being ingested, what impact does that have?"

One debris sample studied mostly contained certain strains of Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera; disease-causing bacteria thriving on plastic instead of something less durable like driftwood may have a better chance of spreading disease across the ocean. However, some of the microbes found on the plastic debris may be capable of degrading hydrocarbons. The team found microscopic pits in the plastic surfaces on samples made of different kinds of resins. Genetic sequencing will identify these microbes, and further research will explore whether some of these microbes can actually digest the plastic garbage they find so appealing.

The plastisphere study was published online in Environmental Science & Technology.
 

Freya H. (313)
Saturday July 20, 2013, 8:24 am
No big surprise here. Microbes have been around for at least two billion years, and have evolved to not just survive but even thrive in all manner of environments. They have been found deep underground, in boiling hot springs, NFL locker rooms, you name it. And evolving to eat plastic? Remember that plastic is made from petroleum, which tens and hundreds of millions of years ago was living tissue. Any wonder that microbes would figure out a way to snack on it? Hey - these microbes could help solve the problem of plastic litter that is doing such terrible harm to sea life. However, remember John W. Campbell's observation that one can never do just one thing, so be careful of what else those plastic-nommers can do!
 

Roger Garin-michaud (113)
Saturday July 20, 2013, 4:00 pm
noted, thanks!
 

Danuta Watola (1216)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 12:50 am
noted
 

Isabella Linde (0)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 1:04 am
thanks for sharing
 

Jonathan Harper (0)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 1:44 am
upside?
 

Franck R. (54)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 1:55 am
Noted
 

Silvia Gonzalez (34)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 4:03 am
It's disturbing.
 

Fi T. (16)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 4:57 am
That's how wonderful life is
 

Kip Mapes (28)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 5:38 am
Nice update Thank You! Never see this stuff on corperate news...
 

Madhu Pillai (22)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 1:24 pm
Noted
 

Lois Jordan (58)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 3:10 pm
Quite interesting. Thanks, Michael. It is of concern that these microbes will be found inside of fish...so I guess I'm still not eating fish. A bigger concern would be horrible bacterial diseases flowing through our oceans, killing everything it touches. Will be hoping to read an update on the findings.
 

Birgit W. (152)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 4:39 pm
Thank you.
 

Hartson Doak (33)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 9:40 pm
Nature uses everything. I have seen floating debris that has had massive amounts of marine life attached. This garbage was now the substrate for this life to cling to. There then formed a small ecosystem. At some point, this growing community will weight down this floating garbage and sink it to the bottom. Where, I am sure, there is some form of life that will use it for habitat. I am not saying it is ok to pollute. What I am saying is that Mother has had Billions of years to figure out how to use the resources that it is presented for life.
 

june t. (66)
Sunday July 21, 2013, 11:35 pm
we are creating more mutant life forms?
 

Viktoriya Moskaleva (6)
Monday July 22, 2013, 12:10 am
неужели с отходами пластика поконченно? но есть ли побочные эффекты?
 

Gvapo T. (22)
Monday July 22, 2013, 3:10 am
I hope more for this ones: "some of the microbes found on the plastic debris may be capable of degrading hydrocarbons."

Than this ones: "One debris sample studied mostly contained certain strains of Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera; disease-causing bacteria thriving on plastic instead of something less durable like driftwood may have a better chance of spreading disease across the ocean."
 

M Away M. (461)
Monday July 22, 2013, 3:10 am
!!Wow, I do believe I just threw up! I feel Ill~
 

Kerrie G. (135)
Monday July 22, 2013, 5:57 am
Shared on Pinterest, thanks for posting. :)
 

Melania Padilla (185)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 10:10 am
Not surprised, organisms have an incredible ability to evolve. Such a shame our oceans are full of f***** plastic, hate it!
 
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