A newly discovered species calls for urgent attention

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Mariana Trench with the depth of 11,034 meters (36,201 feet) is the deepest trench on earth. Despite being declared as Marine National Monument, plastic has found a way to the bottom of trench, polluting it severely.

As part of an expedition to the Marianas Trench in 2014, a team of scientists discovered a new species. Located about 6,900 meters below the ocean surface, one particular new specimen of crustacean was alarmingly already polluted with plastic before it was even known to science. As a result, the scientists dubbed the new species Eurythenes plasticus.

With support from WWF in analysing the newly discovered deep-sea amphipod specimens, scientists found a 0.65mm large microfiber, 80% similar to PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) in one of the individuals. PET is a substance found in a variety of commonly used household items, such as water bottles and workout clothes.

source- WWF

Concerned with the global plastics crisis and the state of marine ecosystems, the scientist who discovered this species decided that it was fitting to name this newly found creature after the very substance that contaminates it and gives it one of its distinct traits: plastic. Because of this decision, plastics have now officially entered the taxonomic record as a new species.

We decided on the name Eurythenes plasticus as we wanted to highlight the fact that we need to take immediate action to stop the deluge of plastic waste into our oceans. (Dr Alan Jamieson, Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology at Newcastle University)

Each year an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans – the equivalent to a truckload of plastic every minute. Due to the fact that most of the plastic waste cannot be recycled, it will often get burned or dumped at repositories instead. From there it finds its way into rivers and then into the ocean. Once in the water, plastic waste breaks down into microplastics and spreads throughout the ocean where it is ingested by marine life.

More than 270 species of wildlife have been adversely affected by plastic pollution. 90% of seabird are estimated to have plastic in their stomachs and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic debris each year.

Video by WWF, explaining gravity of situation.

Because only one specimen was found to contain the plastic contaminant, there is still hope that ending the marine plastic pollution crisis now will keep other individuals of E. plasticus plastics-free. This is a global problem that requires global solutions. WWF is calling for an international, legally binding treaty to end marine plastic pollution.

With this name, we want to send a strong signal against marine pollution to make it clear that we urgently need to do something about the plastic flood. (Head of the research team, Alan Jamieson.)

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