One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals is to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all life depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.
The transport of microplastics in deep-sea food webs
MBARI researchers found that filter-feeding animals called giant larvaceans can collect and consume microplastic particles in the deep sea. The particles accumulate in larvaceans’ cast-off filters and are passed into the animals’ fecal pellets, which sink rapidly through the ocean, potentially carrying microplastics to the deep seafloor.
This research suggests that larvaceans have the potential to be important, unintentional consumers of microplastics in the ocean. Because many other deep-sea animals eat larvaceans, their fecal pellets, or their cast-off houses, any microplastics collected by larvaceans would be incorporated in midwater food webs. These recent findings, published in the journal Science Advances, are just a first step, and many basic questions about microplastics in the ocean remain unanswered.