Plastic pollution found in new amphipod species

Em Richardson on how plastic pollution is impacting yet another marine species

Em Richardson
23rd March 2020

Researchers from Newcastle University have discovered “the presence of plastic” in a sea creature inhabiting the deepest part of the world’s oceans. The discovery is said to be a stark reminder of the true extent of plastic pollution.

The creature itself is a new species of deep-sea amphipods, and was found in the Mariana Trench, between Japan and the Philippines. The trench, known for being the deepest stretch of ocean on Earth, is located in the Pacific Ocean.

The species has been named Eurythenes Plasticus, in reference to the type of plastic it was found to contain. Said plastic is commonly found in household waste.

The research has been widely discussed, including in renowned scientific journal Zootaxa.

As to how the species came to ingest plastic, scientists have pointed out that much of the world’s plastic pollution ends up in Southeast Asia, despite originally being manufactured in industrialised countries, including the UK. Ultimately, Southeast Asia struggles to dispose of plastic pollution, often resorting to dangerous disposal methods. This includes dumping plastic at repositories, from which it eventually makes its way into the water system. Once it enters the ocean, plastic is broken down into micro-plastics, which are then ingested by marine life.

Discussing the significance of Newcastle’s discovery, Dr. Heike Vesper, Director of the Marine Programme at WWF Germany, said “The newly discovered species Eurythenes Plasticus shows us how far-reaching the consequences of our inadequate handling of plastic waste really is. There are species living in the deepest, most remote places on earth which have already ingested plastic before they are even known about by humankind. Plastics are in the air that we breathe, in the water that we drink, and now also in animals that live far away from human civilisation”.

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