. 24/7 Space News .
Deep-sea animals eating plastic fibers from clothing
by Erica Cirino, Oceans Deeply
Washington (UPI) Aug 15, 2017

Far beneath the ocean waves lies the benthic zone - the cold dark region at the bottom of the sea that is home to some of the most important marine organisms, called meiofauna. No larger than a few grains of table salt, the tiny creatures live in and around seabed sediment and play a crucial role breaking down organic matter in the deep ocean and recycling nutrients throughout the marine food chain.

Now scientists have discovered that meiofauna are also consuming microscopic pieces of plastic that have filtered down to the seafloor as plastic trash on the surface disintegrates. Scientists say this microplastic has the potential to change the way meiofauna organisms, and thus the ocean ecosystem, function.

"There is now a wide range of literature that shows microplastics can cause physical harm to organisms when ingested," said Lucy Woodall, a marine biologist at Oxford University. She recently co-authored an analysis of sediment cores that shows that the seafloor is a significant repository for microplastic. In a second study, Woodall and several other scientists from the United Kingdom found plastic fibers inside seafloor organisms when they dissected them.

Woodall's work indicates there's reason to believe that the ocean floor may be a significant repository for marine plastic. She and an international group of researchers extracted pieces of plastic from seabed sediment and deep-water coral collected from an average depth of 3,000 feet but as deep as 11,000 feet. They found that microplastic was four times more abundant in terms of units per volume in deep-sea sediments than previous studies had found in the surface waters of the Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. The researchers discovered microplastic buried as deep as 4 inches in sediment, according to an analysis of core samples.

The scientists did not find only the rigid microplastic shards and beads typically studied on the ocean's surface, but also tiny plastic fibers shed from synthetic clothing. "The dominance of microfibers points to a previously underreported and unsampled plastic fraction," the study concluded. "Given the vastness of the deep sea and the prevalence of microplastics at all sites we investigated, the deep-sea floor appears to provide an answer to the question - where is all the plastic?"

It's known that petroleum-based microplastics tend to harbor large quantities of toxins, which they both absorb from seawater and leach through their rigid edges and more porous surfaces. That means meiofauna are consuming possibly contaminated microplastics from the seafloor.

And it's not just plastic's effects on bottom-dwelling organisms that have scientists concerned. At Roskilde University in Denmark, environmental risk masters student Monica Hamann Sandgaard is studying the impact of tiny marine worms on microplastic that ends up on the seafloor.

During an experiment in March, she filled several long glass tubes with seafloor sediment, benthic worms and tiny fluorescent pink plastic beads. The beads were the same size as the bits of detritus the worms naturally eat off the ocean floor. In a few others tubes, she added only sediment and worms. In the tubes with the plastic, Hamann Sandgaard found that the worms were capable of moving the material down as deep as 6 inches, results similar to those Woodall found.

"Worms aid in the burial of plastic into deeper sediment layers, so the plastic may be less available for other animals on the surface of sediment - they won't consume it," said Hamann Sandgaard. "But if worms are pushing plastic into sediments, it may mean less of a breakdown of plastic by anoxic organisms and photolytic degradation."

The environmental implications of plastic's movement through seafloor sediments remain unclear, however, and scientists say more research is needed. Woodall noted that the focus needs to be on preventing plastics from reaching the seafloor in the first place.

"Preventing the flow of plastics into the ocean is essential in order to minimize plastic-organism interactions and eventually minimize the increase of microplastics into the deep sea," she said.

This article originally appeared on Oceans Deeply, and you can find the original here. For important news about ocean health, you can sign up to the Oceans Deeply email list.

Gulf of Mexico tube worm is one of the longest-living animals in the world
Washington (UPI) Jul 17, 2017
Scientists believe a rare tube worm species found in the Gulf of Mexico is the longest-living animal on Earth. According to their latest research, the species, Escarpia laminata, can live for more than 300 years. Escarpia laminata are known to colonize cold seeps on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico at depths between 3,200 and 10,000 feet. The deep-lying tube worms aren't as well-studied ... read more

Related Links
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Disruptioneering: Streamlining the Process of Scientific Discovery

NASA Offers Space Station as Catalyst for Discovery in Washington

Two Voyagers Taught Us How to Listen to Space

A look inside the Space Station's experimental BEAM module

ISRO Develops Ship-Based Antenna System to Track Satellite Launches

SpaceX Sets August 14 Launch Date for Next US Resupply Mission to ISS

Dragon to be packed with new experiments for International Space Station

NASA taps BWXT for reactor design for future Mars missions

For Moratorium on Sending Commands to Mars, Blame the Sun

Tributes to wetter times on Mars

Opportunity will spend three weeks at current location due to Solar Conjunction

Curiosity Mars Rover Begins Study of Ridge Destination

China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Chinese Space Program: From Setback, to Manned Flights, to the Moon

Chinese Rocket Fizzles Out, Puts Other Launches on Hold

ASTROSCALE Raises a Total of $25 Million in Series C Led by Private Companies

LISA Pathfinder: bake, rattle and roll

Airbus DS to expand cooperation with Russia

UK space companies to develop international partnerships

BAE Systems reveals iMOTR radar system

Machine learning could be key to producing stronger, less corrosive metals

NASA Tests Autopilot Sensors During Simulations

Active machine learning for the discovery and crystallization of gigantic polyoxometalate molecules

A New Search for Extrasolar Planets from the Arecibo Observatory

Gulf of Mexico tube worm is one of the longest-living animals in the world

Molecular Outflow Launched Beyond Disk Around Young Star

Unexpected life found at bottom of High Arctic lakes

New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto's Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

Juno spots Jupiter's Great Red Spot

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

Twilight observations reveal huge storm on Neptune

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.