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Millimeter-sized marine plastics: a new pelagic habitat for microorganisms and invertebrates


Reisser, J and Shaw, J and Hallegraeff, G and Proietti, M and Barnes, DKA and Thums, M and Wilcox, C and Hardesty, BD and Pattiaratchi, C, Millimeter-sized marine plastics: a new pelagic habitat for microorganisms and invertebrates, PLoS One, 9, (6) Article e100289. ISSN 1932-6203 (2014) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 The Authors-This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, (CC BY 4.0 International) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100289


Millimeter-sized plastics are abundant in most marine surface waters, and known to carry fouling organisms that potentially play key roles in the fate and ecological impacts of plastic pollution. In this study we used scanning electron microscopy to characterize biodiversity of organisms on the surface of 68 small floating plastics (length range = 1.7–24.3 mm, median = 3.2 mm) from Australia-wide coastal and oceanic, tropical to temperate sample collections. Diatoms were the most diverse group of plastic colonizers, represented by 14 genera. We also recorded ‘epiplastic’ coccolithophores (7 genera), bryozoans, barnacles (Lepas spp.), a dinoflagellate (Ceratium), an isopod (Asellota), a marine worm, marine insect eggs (Halobates sp.), as well as rounded, elongated, and spiral cells putatively identified as bacteria, cyanobacteria, and fungi. Furthermore, we observed a variety of plastic surface microtextures, including pits and grooves conforming to the shape of microorganisms, suggesting that biota may play an important role in plastic degradation. This study highlights how anthropogenic millimeter-sized polymers have created a new pelagic habitat for microorganisms and invertebrates. The ecological ramifications of this phenomenon for marine organism dispersal, ocean productivity, and biotransfer of plastic-associated pollutants, remains to be elucidated.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:marine plastics
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Plant biology
Research Field:Phycology (incl. marine grasses)
Objective Division:Animal Production and Animal Primary Products
Objective Group:Fisheries - aquaculture
Objective Field:Fisheries - aquaculture not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Hallegraeff, G (Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff)
ID Code:92492
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:215
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2014-06-19
Last Modified:2017-11-20
Downloads:599 View Download Statistics

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