Quantcast

Plankton Eating Plastic Caught on Camera for First Time Ever

Science

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

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less