Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Plankton Eating Plastic Caught on Camera for First Time Ever

Science
Plankton Eating Plastic Caught on Camera for First Time Ever

We know that plastic waste leaves a devastating trail, and now for the first time, we can actually witness it impacting the oceans' tiniest creatures. Zooplankton, the foundation of the marine food system, have been caught eating plastic in a new video from Five Films (via New Scientist).

The footage, captured under a microscope at the UK-based Plymouth Marine Laboratory, shows copepods consuming—and accumulating—fluorescent polystyrene beads measuring 7 to 30 micrometers in diameter.

"We were looking inside just one drop of water," Verity White of Five Films told New Scientist.

Plankton usually dine on algae, but with the 8 million metric tons of plastic waste being dumped into our oceans annually, it's no surprise that the little creatures are mistaking microplastics and degraded plastic scraps for food.

"The plankton were swimming and processing food non-stop," White added about the footage captured over a three-hour span.

According to New Scientist, researchers at Plymouth Marine Laboratory have also witnessed other types of zooplankton such as crab and oyster larvae accidentally eating these microplastics, which can remain in their intestinal tracts for up to one week if the zooplankton do not have access to actual food. Accidentally feasting on ocean plastic could thus impact plankton survival or reproduction rates, and ultimately move up the food chain as filter feeders dine on plankton.

Research from 5 Gyres Institute shows that only five to 10 percent of the plastic produced is recovered. 5 Gyres points out that while 50 percent of plastic is buried in landfills and some plastics are remade into durable goods, much of it washes out to sea. Unfortunately, this plastic pollution not only entraps or turns up in the stomachs of marine animals (ranging from plankton to large whales), these toxic particles pass on to us when we eat seafood.

"It’s not just the plastic that harms animals; the beads absorb toxic chemicals, making them poisonous to any creature that mistakes them for food or that eats another that has ingested the plastic—all the way up the food chain," as David Suzuki wrote about the scourge of ocean plastic. "Because humans eat fish and other animals, these toxins can end up in our bodies, where they can alter hormones and cause other health problems."

If you want to learn more about the global catastrophe of ocean plastic (and how you can help end it), check out this video from 5 Gyres Institute:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Surreal Photos Show Impact of Plastic Pollution on One of the World’s Most Beautiful Places

Microbeads: A Sign of Our Plastic Consumer Madness

20 Year Old Claims He Can Rid the World’s Oceans of Plastic

Sun Cable hopes to start construction of the world's largest solar farm in 2023. Sun Cable
A large expanse of Australia's deserted Outback will house the world's largest solar farm and generate enough energy to export power to Singapore, as The Guardian reported.
Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Construction on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric station in 2015. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

In 1999 a cheering crowd watched as a backhoe breached a hydroelectric dam on Maine's Kennebec River. The effort to help restore native fish populations and the river's health was hailed as a success and ignited a nationwide movement that spurred 1,200 dam removals in two decades.

Read More Show Less

Trending

We pet owners know how much you love your pooch. It's your best friend. It gives you pure happiness and comfort when you're together. But there are times that dogs can be very challenging, especially if they are suffering from a certain ailment. As a dog owner, all you want to do is ease whatever pain or discomfort your best friend is feeling.

Read More Show Less
A new study has revealed that Earth's biggest mass extinction was triggered by volcanic activity that led to ocean acidification. Illustration by Dawid Adam Iurino (PaleoFactory, Sapienza University of Rome) for Jurikova et al (2020)

The excess carbon dioxide emitted by human activity since the start of the industrial revolution has already raised the Earth's temperature by more than one degree Celsius, increased the risk of extreme hurricanes and wildfires and killed off more than half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. But geologic history shows that the impacts of greenhouse gases could be much worse.

Read More Show Less
Coronavirus-sniffing dogs Miina and Kössi (R) are seen in Vantaa, Finland on September 2, 2020. Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva / AFP/ Getty Images

By Teri Schultz

Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.

Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch