Are Living Organisms Evolving the Ability to Break Down Ocean Plastics?

Plastic. There should be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the stuff floating around in our oceans. But we are finding less than expected – perhaps because living organisms are evolving the ability to break it down.

Plastic. There should be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the stuff floating around in our oceans. But we are finding less than expected – perhaps because living organisms are evolving the ability to break it down.
Plastic production is rising exponentially, so ever more of it should be ending up in the oceans, says Ricard Sole, who studies complex systems at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.
But surveys of areas where floating plastic accumulates, such as the North Atlantic gyre, are not finding nearly as much plastic as expected.

Mystery of the missing plastics

In fact, there’s only a tenth to a hundredth as much plastic as expected – and the amount of floating plastic does not appear to be increasing. “The trend should be there,” Sole says.
This lack of trend cannot be explained by physical processes, according to his team’s mathematical models. Instead, they propose that there has been a population boom in microbes that have evolved the ability to biodegrade plastic.

Read Full Story: New Scientist/Michael Le Page
Photo: MichaelisScientists/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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