New Microbes Found on Plastic Debris in Oceans

A multitude of microbes were discovered by scientists thriving and colonizing on plastic flecks found in the ocean. The team of scientists analyzed the marine plastic debris found in different locations of North Atlantic Ocean.

The scientists used gene sequencing and scanning electron microscopy techniques to examine the samples and found out nearly one thousand bacterial cell types on the plastic samples. Some of the species are still not identified. It included bacteria, algae and plants capable of manufacturing their own food, bacteria and animals feeding on them, predators feeding on these along with other organisms establishing synergistic relationships. Most of the complex communities thrive on plastic bits more or less equal to the size of pin heads.


The scientists are of the belief that artificial microbial reefs are created by the plastic debris in the oceans acting as the breeding grounds of these microbes. These communities are totally different from the ones settling on floating materials that occur naturally like microalgae, wood and feathers. The scientists have also discovered that these microbes might be playing a part in degrading plastics.

However, the concerning fact is that these debris act as modes of transportation for harmful algal species and disease causing pathogens. One of the plastic samples examined showed existence of genus Vibrio members consisting of bacteria that cause gastrointestinal maladies and cholera.