Scientists document microbes on ocean garbage patches

By on March 6, 2014

Plastic pollution on an Egyptian beach (Credit: Vberger, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists are studying the great garbage patches of the world’s oceans to learn more about the microbial communities that live there, and their impact on marine ecosystems, Livescience reported.

In the past year, scientists have learned that around 1,000 different types of microbes lived on the plastic debris littering the ocean. Many of the microbes are of the genus Vibrio, known for the cholera bacteria. Some of the other microbes help the plastic break down.

Recent research has revealed that microbe colonies only take minutes to form on the discarded plastic. Additionally, the plastic patches seem to attract certain disease-causing bacteria more than others.

Oceanic debris patches form where garbage is trapped by merging currents. One of the most well-known of these patches is the Pacific garbage patch, which is nearly the size of Texas.

 Image: Plastic pollution on an Egyptian beach (Credit: Vberger, via Wikimedia Commons)

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