HONOLULU, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Scientists at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting have convened to talk about the "plastisphere," the millions of tons of drifting plastic trash that's changing the ocean's ecosystems.
The trash can collect to form giant whirlpools, spinning their way through the middle of the open ocean.
"It’s a whole new ocean habitat created by humans,” Tracy Mincer, biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, recently told Science Magazine.
One of the revelations being discussed at the plastisphere conference is the plethora of microbes that have made tiny pieces of floating plastic their home. More than 1,000 different types of microbes can thrive on these miniature plastic islands, according to a press release issued by the conference.
Some of microbes, known as Vibrio, glow in the dark, and scientists hypothesize that the night-lights could attract hungry fish. Consuming little bits of plastic may not be the best thing for fish populations -- or for the humans that eat them -- but its an excellent strategy for the microbes.
"It’s a good gig for the bacteria—they have all the right genes to put a tap in that keg," Mincer said.
It's not clear yet whether the microbes' glowing is an evolutionary tactic, but it's fascinating nonetheless.
"Here we have this big experiment, right?" Mincer told NBC News. "I mean, a bunch of plastic has been dumped into the ocean. Now, how is the microbial community adapting?"
[Science Magazine] [NBC News]