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Ocean Plastic Aid Insects

Floating pools of plastic debris in the Pacific offer more surfaces for marine insects to lay eggs.

By | May 10, 2012

image: Ocean Plastic Aid Insects Flickr, Garrettc

FLICKR, GARRETTC

The large amounts of plastic debris that have been accumulating in the north Pacific Ocean for decades may be altering the resident ecosystems in unexpected ways. According to a new study published in Biology Letters this week (May 8), open sea insects that lay eggs on solid substrates are increasingly using tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter for this purpose.

Insects such as Halobates sericeus, which normally lay their eggs on the rare piece of drift wood or pumice, are benefiting from the increased surface area the plastic debris is providing, and are laying more eggs. Indeed, over the past 4 decades, the number of plastic particles that have drifted into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, brief description, has increased by about 100 times.

While researchers are uncertain of the wider impact of this increase in egg-laying, it is likely to have an immediate effect on the animals that prey on the insects, Miriam Goldstein, a marine ecologist at the University of California, San Diego and author of the paper, told ScienceNow. "This is an ecosystem that doesn't have many nutrients. There's a lot of things there that are hungry all the time."

The authors also worry that a boom in insect populations may deplete the plankton populations that they feed on, but conclude that further research is needed in order to understand widespread ecological effects.

 

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Comments

Avatar of: Kamal Garcha

Kamal Garcha

Posts: 2

May 10, 2012

Wonderful to hear about the positives (?) regarding ocean garbage dumps. I would comment that in the second paragraph you should remove the "brief description" from the text though.

Avatar of: TheSciAdmin

TheSciAdmin

Posts: 56

May 10, 2012

Hi Kamal. Thanks for catching our editing remnant in the text. It has been removed.

Thanks for reading!
~Jef Akst, editor, The Scientist

Avatar of: Qi Quan Teoh

Qi Quan Teoh

Posts: 2

June 7, 2012

Anyhow, throwing rubbish to sea should be discouraged. There are some
marine life which die after accidentally eat those plastic bag. 

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