Even Barnacles Eating Our Plastic Trash

33% of barnacles in study had ingested a microplastic
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2013 1:57 PM CDT
Even Barnacles Eating Our Plastic Trash
Gooseneck barnacles were one of the two kinds studied.   (Wikimedia)

Today's most unfortunate number: 267. That's the number of marine species that have been found to have eaten plastic, and a new study zeroes in on one such species— barnacles. Researchers traveled to the North Pacific Gyre (better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) with a question: Are marine invertebrates eating plastic trash, too? LiveScience explains that the knowledge on the subject was fairly limited, with lab studies indicating the answer is "yes," but field research having revealed only three backbone-less species known to consume it.

And so researchers gathered 385 barnacles and zeroed in on their gastrointestinal tracts ... and found something there. "Microplastics," which LiveScience defines as small pieces winnowed down by the elements to sizes of less than 0.2 inches. Such particles were present in 33.5% of the barnacles' tracts; 44% of those had more than three particles there. So what does this mean? "The implications ... remain uncertain," write the study authors. They found no evidence of stomach or intestinal blockage, but the possibility exists that the particles could have an effect on barnacles' nutrition. What it won't have an effect on, notes LiveScience: the amount of plastic in the ocean. What barnacles eat, they eventually "poop out." (More Great Pacific Garbage Patch stories.)

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