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

Pick one of these nine activism styles, and you can start making change. YES! Illustrations by Delphine Lee

By Cathy Brown

Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.

Read More Show Less
Jamie Grill Photography / Getty Images

Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A boy gives an impromptu speech about him not wanting to die in the next 10 years during the protest on July 15. The Scottish wing of the Extinction Rebellion environmental group of Scotland locked down Glasgow's Trongate for 12 hours in protest of climate change. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.

Read More Show Less
A group of wind turbines in a field in Banffshire, Northeast Scotland. Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Beekeeper Jeff Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so. CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

Read More Show Less

tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachel Licker

As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

Read More Show Less