Due to ongoing climate changes, it’s not a surprise that microplastics are making their way into ocean water. While the microplastics are responsible for disrupting ocean ecology, researchers have found a new coral species, Astrangia poculata which prefers to eat microplastic over normal food.
“Plastics keep interrupting the conversation, and it’s hard to ignore,” Rotjan said about the latest finding to National Geographic. “You pick your ecosystem, you pick your organism, and you are most likely going to find microplastics.”
The researchers’ latest discovery came as they collected Astrangia poculata coral from the coast of Rhode Island to understand the effects of microplastics on corals. As the corals are living near an urban area, the scientists thought they would be polluted by microplastics. After analyzing the samples, researchers found that each coral contained more than 100 fibers.
After this, the scientists presented microplastic beads and natural (shrimp eggs) food in the ocean. Interestingly, the researchers found almost twice as much microbeads than brine shrimp eggs inside each coral. In another experiment, scientists placed the microbeads in seawater to cover them with a biofilm. While the polyps or single coral swallowed the microbeads, the polyps spit the beads out after two days. However, all of the polyps that consumed the microbeads died inside two weeks.
The researchers expect that the latest findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, will warn everyone about the possible effects of bacterial infection in ocean water.