Recent research has found that coralAstrangia poculata they prefer to eat microplastics before their natural diet.
Although the recent discovery sounds like good news for the possibility of processing ocean microplastics naturally, this species of coral that devours them is suffering great suffering.
The intensive study on coral focused on its behavior in the face of climate change.
The researchers collected several coral specimensA. poculata off the coast of Rhode Island, United States. Due to its proximity to a large urban area, it was estimated that there would be a large amount of plastic in the water.
The research focused on microplastics, small particles less than five millimeters wide.
By analyzing the samples, the scientists discovered that each coral polyp contained at least 100 microplastic particles. This turns out to be the first record of plastic consumed by corals in the wild.
To test the coral feeding hypothesis, the researchers threw plastic microbeads into tanks with A. poculata Bred in captivity along with their favorite food: shrimp eggs.
After a while, when they opened the corals, they found twice as much plastic in the polyps as shrimp eggs. This confirms the hypothesis that coral has a greater preference for plastics over natural foods.
In a second phase of the study, they submerged various plastic elements in the ocean, allowing bacteria to form a biofilm on them. Then, they infected the biofilm with the bacteriaE. coliand fed the laboratory corals.
Although they discarded the items two days later, they all died of infections.
This finding indicates that large amounts of coral could be dying from plastic-borne infections and causing serious disruption to marine ecosystems.