One of the deepest places on Earth is the Mariana Trench where some species call home. It is so deep that there are species, and even places in the trench, that we have not discovered! Earlier this month, a newly identified amphipod was found; it was named Eurythenes plasticus. Its size is very small, about the size of a coin. Why was this name chosen? Sadly, it was named after researchers found plastic in its gut. This just goes to show that the plastic pollution is a major problem, and is now found in one of the deepest parts of the ocean.
Johanna Weston, a PhD student and author of the study, said "we found one microfiber in a specimen from 22,600 feet and that microfiber was 60% similar to PET." PET is short for polyethylene terephthalate, which is a substance found in a variety of items from water bottles to workout clothes. As PET breaks down, it gets smaller and eventually breaks down into microplastics. These microplastics have been on the increase and found in marine animals around the world. Once these microplastics reach the deep sea, they accumulate over time and have nowhere to go. Heike Vesper, director of the Marine Programme at WWF Germany, said "the newly discovered specie shows us how far-reaching the consequences of our inadequate handling of plastic waste truly is." He further mentions that "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."
Deep-sea animals are more susceptible to ingesting micoplastics because how scarce the food is at that level. They have adopted the ability to pretty much eat anything that makes its way into the deep ocean. Plastics have not been around long enough for those deep-sea animals to have evolved the detection of plastics or avoiding them. The harm is not just ingesting the plastic, but from its chemical makeup as well, which are known to cause harm.
(Header image source: IFL Science)