Plastic waste is known to find its way to the farthest corners of the world. The ocean cannot escape this either, with an annual inflow of plastic waste of 5 to 13 million tons.
Now it appears that new species, which have been discovered in the most inaccessible and deepest places of the world's oceans, already contain microplastics.
Researchers at Newcastle University caught 11 specimens of a new species of giant flake shrimp at a depth of between 6 and 7 kilometers in the Mariana Trench, the world's deepest underwater trench off the Philippines. In one specimen, captured at a depth of nearly 7 kilometers, they found a fiber of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is a widely used plastic and is used to make bottles, foils, films and textile fibers.
The discovery of this fragment in the gut of a newly discovered scavenging bottom animal - a sad first - shows just how ubiquitous plastic is today, and to emphasize this, the researchers have named the new species Eurythenes plasticus .
The one and a half centimeter large lobster E. plasticus is a deep-sea inhabitant . Strongly related species were already known, but genetic research showed that the find was of a different species.
Like many deep-sea animals, the animal eats organic matter or life that resides in the light-rich surface layers of the sea and slowly sinks to the bottom after death. Precisely because of this dependence on food that is whirling down, E. plasticus runs the pre- eminent risk of coming into contact with artificial waste and microplastics. Microplastics have also been found in other deep-sea lobsters in the up to 8 kilometers deep Peru-Chilitrog, on the west coast of South America.
The microplastics can pose a danger to the organisms that absorb them, because they attract POPs in the ocean. POPs (persistent organic pollutants) are for the most part man-made organic compounds that are very difficult to break down. They can leak from the microplastics into the body of the organisms and adversely affect their growth or reproduction.