Scientists discover marine life on piles of ocean trash
Marine life is determined to live, scientists have found, as they have discovered dozens of marine species thriving in the farthest reaches of the ocean, even among the piles of trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The garbage patch is a huge whirlwind of debris about twice the size of the state of Texas, swirled around by water currents from the North Pacific. It is also called the Pacific Garbage Patch. The world has five such masses. This one, the largest of them all, was first documented around 1997, when a boater spotted a tangle of plastics, bottles and fishing nets floating nearby.
As sorry as it sounds, new findings suggest that marine species are colonizing these mountainous wastelands – in a recent paper, researchers recorded more than 40 coastal species clinging to the wreck, including mussels, barnacles, amphipods resembling shrimps, crabs, stars and sponges. “It’s almost like a new island has emerged,” Greg Ruiz, a scientist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, told NBC News, noting that it “represents a paradigm shift from what we thought was possible.”
In the past, scientists have observed that coastal species can travel the high seas on floating logs or driftwood, but once these organic materials dissolve, the species would be stranded in the middle of nowhere with no way to survive. The trash plastics, however, offer a lifeline of sorts, serving as a water-insoluble campsite for plants and animals. More surprisingly, the researchers found that coastal species – which are generally used to shorelines richer in food than the open ocean – could still forage for nutrients in waters far from their waste habitat. In short, they bloomed.
This discovery shook the foundations of marine ecosystems as we know them, casting doubt on existing beliefs that the longest stretches of the vast ocean were marine deserts unfit for life. Such a revelation could have ripple effects on the ocean food web or on the migrations of invasive species. Perhaps one day, coastal species might even feel more comfortable on a plastic raft wandering deep in the blue than on the edges of green land. “The evolutionary rate of change could be quite rapid,” Ruiz told NBC News. “We don’t know the answer for organisms in the trash. Certainly, the potential is there. »