Courtesy teapicPack your bags, Buzzketeers, because you don’t want to be the last person to make it to the world’s newest, creepiest continent. (Don’t worry, Australia, I’m not talking about you.)
Trashlantis! The new frontier! The Texas-sized plastic layer floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Why would you not want to go there? The answer, of course, is that you wouldn’t not want to go there… ever!
Yet another scientific expedition is on its way to the fabled plastic continent. But while the last group of researchers mentioned on Buzz was at least partially motivated by the potential to turn Trashlantis back into some more useful hydrocarbons, it looks like these folks are more interested in seeing how the plastic is affecting sea life.
The Yahoo article linked to above sums up the expedition with:
”The expedition will study how much debris -- mostly tiny plastic fragments -- is collecting in an expanse of sea known as the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, how that material is distributed and how it affects marine life.”
I’m guessing what they’re getting at has to do with how plastic affects very very small organisms as it photodegrades. We understand how chunks of plastic in the ocean are no good for larger animals—marine life can choke on them, or fill their stomachs with trash—but the problem goes further than that. See, eventually those larger pieces of plastic start to photodegrade. (That means they get broken down by the energy in sunlight.) But photodegredation doesn’t seem to actually get rid of the plastic, it just breaks it into increasingly smaller pieces. When a plastic bag turns into a million little tiny chunks, it no longer poses a risk for, say, a sea gull choking on it. But smaller organisms are still likely to gobble some up, and if they can eat anything bigger than they can poop (it happens), they’re in a lot of trouble. And when small organisms die off, so do the slightly larger creatures that eat them, and the larger creatures that eat them, and so on. (You remember this from grade school.) So how will Trashlantis fit into this plasticky food-path?
And then there’s the huge real estate potential for Trashlantis. So get there now.
Courtesy Wikipedia (Photo by Øystein Paulsen)The above title is a bit clumsy but it conveys what some scientists claim is going on around the south polar region due to climate change and warming temperatures. Changes in wind patterns across Antarctica are not only affecting the composition and levels of phytoplankton in areas there but rising temperatures are also causing sharp changes in the Chinstrap and Adelie penguin populations that feed on the krill that feed on the phytoplankton. The ecosystem appears to be going out of whack. Read more...
I hope I don't get in trouble for posting this, but here's a BBC-produced video showing a whale shark pooping. There is good scientific inquiry behind this, so to speak. Why would scientists what to see, and get samples of, whale shark poop? Share your ideas here.
About 290 million years ago, a prehistoric shark ate an amphibian, which in turn ate a frog—and all three were preserved in one of the first food-chain fossils ever discovered (National Geographic News). Click here to see Berlin Museum of Natural History images.