New Species Discovered In World’s Deepest Trench Named After Plastic Found In Its Gut
A new coin-sized species has just been discovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and scientists have named it after the plastic found in its gut.
Eurythenes plasticus was found in one of the deepest places on Earth, the Marianas Trench, and it is sadly no stranger to the effects of human pollution.
Johanna Weston, a PhD student and first author of the study describing the new discovery, said: ‘Finding a new species that we didn’t know was there before and finding plastic in it, just shows how widespread this is as a pollutant. We found one microfiber in a specimen from 6,900m (22,600ft) and that microfiber was 60% similar to polyethylene terephthalate (PET).’
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PET is a substance found in a number of commonly used products, such as plastic water bottles and workout clothes, and it does not naturally degrade in the environment.
Indeed, as it breaks down and turns into smaller and smaller particles, PET eventually turns into microplastics, which are appearing in a large proportion of marine animals in oceans all over the world. Once they make their way into the deep sea, they begin to build up as there is nowhere else for them to go.
Heike Vesper, director of the Marine Programme at WWF Germany, said in a statement:
The newly discovered species Eurythenes plasticus shows us how far-reaching the consequences of our inadequate handling of plastic waste truly is. There are species living in the deepest, most remote places on Earth which have already ingested plastic before they are even known about by humankind.
The new species are ‘voracious, non-picky eaters’, according to IFL Science, so it could be that they are more susceptible to ingesting microplastics than other creatures.
There is very little to eat in the deep sea, which means creatures living down there will eat just about anything that becomes available.
However, because plastic is still relatively new, deep sea animals haven’t yet managed to evolve to detect and avoid the plastic.
Sadly, it’s not just ingesting plastic that can cause harm to animals, but also from the associated chemicals in the plastic. There are many contaminants in the sea, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and most are hydrophobic, which means they don’t like water and cannot bind to anything else in the ocean – but they love plastic.
Plastics act as a magnet to POPs, and as they sink to the bottom of the ocean, they collect contaminants. When deep-sea animals eat that plastic they become contaminated by the chemicals, and this causes reproduction harm.
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