There are Bizarre Transporters of Plastic Pellets in The Ocean

Khryss | Published 2017-08-26 10:11

Undersized filter-feeding animals in the world’s waters take in bits of plastic and excrete them in pellets that sink to the ocean floor -- a wormhole to a deeper dimension for plastic.

Larvaceans are solitary, free-swimming tunicates found throughout the world's oceans. Like most tunicates, appendicularians are filter-feeders. These creature's feeding behaviour transport immeasurable amounts of micro-plastics from the ocean's upper layers down into its depths. This could possibly be the reason that surveys are finding far less plastic in the oceans than expected. Although the dispatching of plastic from the waters might actually seem like a completely positive thing, this is something that isn't really necessary.

Kakani Katija of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California says, "It means plastic is a much bigger problem than just at the surface. It has the potential to affect the inhabitants at various depths throughout the ocean." Her colleague Anela Choy claims that this could also affect us, since we eat a lot of animals that are sea-dwellers, such as crabs.

Most of the plastic in the oceans consist of pieces usually invisible to the human eye while terms like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch invoke visions of floating islands of rubbish.

Prior to this study, Katija has proved through different studies that these animals filter vast amounts of seawater annually. "They are incredibly important organisms in mid-waters," she says.

As for their observation, Choy and Katija used a remotely operated vehicle in order to give off tiny plastic pellets near individual humongous larvaceans and examined what transpired. These were made at depths of between 200 and 400 metres. Few of the pellets stuck to the creatures' mucus houses which are regularly discarded, while others were gobbled up and incorporated into fecal pellets. And although this may be eaten by other animals on the way down, both the discarded houses and fecal pellets sink to the sea floor.

Since fecal pellets contain buoyant plastic, this means it would sink more slowly and are most like to be eaten. "And then the plastic has the chance to be eaten again and cause an effect, perhaps, to another animal," Matthew Cole of the University of Exeter cites.

Well, shit... that's so not rubbish information.

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